Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Notes on a masterpiece called Kaze Tachinu (The Wind rises) by Hayao Miyazaki, Japan: 2013

The dream of flying was always an essential part in the filmy by Hayao Miyazaki. On the surface, Kaze Tachinu is a bio pic about the Japanese aircraft engineer Jiro Horikoshi, famous for his planes built for the company Mitsubishi and finally used for the inglorious action of Japan during world war 2. After a next step into the depth of one of the most ambitioned film by the Ghibli studio as well by one of its masters Hayao Miyazaki, there is a series of dreams, Jiro has about encounters with an Italian aircraft engineer called Caproni.
“To fly is a beautiful dream. To Fly is a terrible dream”, he says in the first dream to the short sighted boy Jiro. In another dream, Jiro, still a child flies just from the roof of his house with  a small plane. There is almost no gravity at the beginning it is a dance with the wind. Suddenly bombing planes, a distorted and demonic dream vision of the destruction of war planes appears, hits Jiro´s plane and he crashes.

Finally planes have a lot of common with Cinema. Both are at first technical inventions and both were misused in the history as well for destruction. The dream of flying is close to the dream of cinema.
Like so much great films, Kaze Tachinu is in one of its many layers as well a film about cinema. It is a film on the beauty of machines, the ones the film shows, the other the film is made with.
Last but not least, it is a film about an artist and a workaholic who is really obsessed about his dreams to fly. In reality he is unable to become a pilot because of his bad eyesight. Long before the film was released, there were a lot of ideological attacks on Miyazaki from the right wing as well from the left and from other countries. Understandable are only the attacks from the Japanese Right wing, because Miyazaki´s antipathy against military is always present in this film.. Beyond the limits of idiocy were the attacks from the lefts. One must be blind to see Jiro as a heroic figure. The film sharply works with the brutal clash of Jiro´s dream to build “beautiful airplanes” and the fact that he is finally integrated into the war machine of Japan. The film isn´t actually only a period film but also a dynamic drama between what could be and what was, a tension which is visible in the whole film. In all sympathy for Jiro, the film makes me thinking in John Ford who was often often blamed in a very simplistic way for racism or patriotism. Like Ford, Miyazaki reveals that nearly all aspects of human civilisation, technology,culture and art can turn from beauty into its opposite my misuse. 
During Jiro´s stay in Germany where he shall learn from the German engineers there is one short moment when he and his friend listen a Schubert-song from Die Wintereise in front of a window of a house. It takes place in the city Dessau which looks like some of the many engrossed city landscape in Miyazakis films. One moment later the two Japanese witness the gestapo chasing a man. The beauty of Miyazakis animated images are often invaded by moments of destruction and terror which come often without any warning. The earthquake in Tokyo 1923 or a very likely image of the destruction caused by the planes Jiro built.

Miyazakis animated world is rich and complex. Miyazaki´s streets, buildings like coffee shops or apartments are about on the level of American painter Edward Hopper. During a stay in a spa hotel, where he finally falls in love with Nahoko, he meets a German refugee (if a Jew, a political refugee or a dissident writer, I do not now). He tells Jiro about what is going on and what will going on in Japan and Germany (a country lead by rascals) and this spa hotel makes us forgetting Japans invasions in East Asia and all the crimes which are going on right now. This moments of subtle disturbance are often integrated in Miyazakis fantastic images, his delicate and rich composed pictures of the world

The love story between Jiro and Nahoko who suffers under tuberculosis is another important element of the film. At the same time it is one of the most beautiful love stories Miyazaki ever told, but in some moments it turns almost into the abyssal kind like for example Hitchcock´s masterpiece Vertigo.
The most beautiful moments between Jiro an Nahoko have always to do with wind, rain and the beautiful painted sky and one of the most tenderly scene is about a play with a plane made of paper. Even though Jiro knows that his love (whom he marries later in a hurry) suffers under serious illness, he keeps her away far too long from a clinic where she probably could be healed. To his superior he says that he can´t work without her close to him. At the day of Jiro´s biggest triumph he will loose her forever. Secretly she goes back to the clinic aware that she will die soon. At the same time the beauty of his art building aircraft turns into machines of mass destruction. At the end in a last dream with the Italian Caproni he encounters his dead wife Nahoko again who says that he shall live. These are last words of his late wife in whose death Jiro was at least complicit.

In a way Kaze Tachinu is also a succession from one of the greatest national film heritage in the world. His incredible details on Japanese every day life have to do with the masters of the shomingeki-films, Ozu, Naruse, Shimzu and others and among all the films made by Ghibli, it is probably with Yoshifumi Kondo´s Mimi o Sumase ba (Whisper of the Heart) one of the most realistic ones.

A film deals always with things we see and things we don´t see.
The essence of cinema is not to reproduce an image of reality or create an own world, but the dynamic tension between both aspects
The beauty of cinema is not that a film captures us in a dream, leads us to an escape from the world we live in, neither can cinema exist without our dreams from a world better than the world we live in.
Cinema was never invented to tell us what is good and what is bad. The true cinema is not preaching but it enables us to distinguish between them.
True cinema can not be explored by any theory or any predetermined ideology, because every great film has more or less hidden in itself its own idea of a theory of cinema.

If cinema is the most endangered art form of today, there is a need, an urgently need that films are like part of a collective consciousness of the whole history of cinema with all its richness and all its glory. Films which do not steal from this rich history, this immense source of richness, beauty and wisdom, but which refer to or which are linked to this richness.There are films which are unique but at the same time deeply rooted in this richness of cinema. They are at the same time universal or might they tell an epic story from the culture the film comes from. But at the same time these films can be very personal, the work of a single mind connected with this long and manifold history of cinema.
These films will be unforgettable. First for their own sake, secondly for their achievements to remind us what cinema can be and where it comes from.

One of these films is Kaze Tachinu by Hayako Miyazaki. It is one of Miyazaki´s most beautiful and at the same time time his saddest film but definitely the finest Ghibli film since 1995. And if Kaze Tachinu will be Miyazaki´s last film than it is one of the finest swansongs in the history of cinema on the level of the last films by Ozu, Naruse, Kubrick, Kurosawa, Satyajit Ray and many others.
It is meaningless to write any further, because there are still coming memories into my mind, I forgot to mention. One of them is this incredible sound design where for example the sound of engines or the earthquake made of human voices. And for those who do not understand when I always say, the composer Joe Hisaishi is the Japanese Bernhard Herrman, you have to watch this film.

Last but not least Kaze Tachinu is one of these films where images of this film will hunt me forever. They are not really finished when the credits are gone. I am sure I will see this cinematic miracle several times again.

Rüdiger Tomczak

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