I had the immense privilege to attend the New York Film Festival on Saturday 28th of September, and watch a screening of The Wind Rises. Being Hayao Miyazaki's last film (as far as we know), and a Studio Ghibli creation, expectations were high. I, along with a vast audience of maybe 300 people, got to enjoy a wonderful story the way it should be enjoyed: on the big screen, with fellow enthusiasts and loved ones held close.
The Wind Rises tells the story of Jiro Horikoshi, the engineer of the Mitsubishi A6M fighter plane which changed the course of World War II for the Japanese. When I first heard about the premise for the film, I was apprehensive, though I was also excited at the prospect of another Hayao Miyazaki film. I felt excited because war is one of Miyazaki's strongest themes throughout the course of his work. His use of metaphor and stunning visualization is always above and beyond what one traditionally expects; apprehensive, because of preceding films outside of Studio Ghibli that involve WWII narratives. Typically we hear about WWII from the Allies' perspective meaning the US and Great Britain, and rarely do we hear from the defeated side of that war. And though this peaked my interest, I also couldn't imagine what could be said from their perspectives. I am supremely happy that I was able to shove these aforementioned thoughts aside, and enjoy one of the most wonderfully told stories I have ever experienced.
In the film, we follow our hero Jiro as he dreams of being a plane engineer. He chose to be an engineer because he unfortunately is near-sighted and so can not fly himself. So he chose the next best thing, creating planes. We accompany him on his journey as he goes through school with one goal in mind, engineering an all metal body plane that will fly for the Japanese. Unfortunately for him, his dream is altered due to the impending war, and because Jiro wants to see his dream come to fruition, he adjusts as best he can and takes on the assignment of creating a war plane.
Though the film has a devastatingly sad ending, it is the kind of sad that makes you happy to be alive, and happy to have seen what this film presents. The bitter sweetness of having watched Jiro Horikoshi's struggle to achieve his dream, only to have to compromise both his vision and his life in order to see it through, is overwhelmingly relatable. By the end of it, there wasn't a single person with a dry eye in the theatre, mine included.
The voice acting was extremely appropriate and fully emotional which was quite surprising as it felt slightly stiff in the trailer. Admittedly, it seems that it would be difficult to cut a trailer that would be cheerily engaging from the material that is in the film, but they did a pretty good job.
In Miyazaki's career, there have been very poignant moments in each film, where you as the spectator get to sit back, watch that scene and think, "Wow, this is what I've been waiting for." And that proves true at various parts in the film. The animation is breathtaking, full of a wonderful contrasts of earthy tones and bright colour during major parts of the film (I refrain to add specifics so as not to spoil), which is accompanied by some of the sweetest sounds film composer Joe Hisaishi has ever produced.
But above animation, acting and music, The Wind Rises excels in telling a wonderful story that anyone in their lives, whether young or old, can relate to. And that's the story about how we choose to achieve our biggest dreams. At the beginning of our lives, we decide what it is our life's work will amount to, and along the way there are not only setbacks, and trial-and-errors, but serious compromises. However, it is on looking back at our achieved dreams that we can clearly see what all of the sacrifice has meant; that it is not the fact that we achieved our dreams, so much as how we were able to adapt and the journey along the way that truly shows us what it has all meant, and how that's affected those around us.
The Wind Rises is a wonderful show of the craftsmanship and love Hayao Miyazaki has dedicated his entire career to. Though this film is not Miyazaki's masterpiece, it is a close second. I can not imagine Hayao Miyazaki saying good bye in a more fitting way.