THE WIND RISES
written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki
screenplay by Jennifer Lee, inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen"
directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
Editor's Note: This review pertains to the original Japanese-language version of The Wind Rises.
by Walter Chaw Hayao Miyazaki's alleged swan song The Wind Rises is mature, romantic, grand storytelling that just happens to be something like a romanticized biography of Jiro Horikoshi, the aeronautical engineer behind the design of the Mitsubishi A5M, which led, ultimately, to the Zero. Indeed, for a Western audience, watching Jiro's dreams of squadrons of Zeros buzzing over fields of green is chilling, and advance critics seemed unable to distinguish the Japanese war machine from the film's focus on a life lived in pursuit of dreams. In truth, separating these two aspects of the picture--the proximate and the historical--is self-defeating. (Dismissing the movie out of hand is equally blinkered.) One without the other, The Wind Rises loses anything like substance, resonance, importance. It would fall on the one side into gauzy bullshit, on the other into Triumph of the Will. As is, it's something more akin to Studio Ghibli's own Grave of the Fireflies in its humanizing of a man whose dreams were corrupted into something terrible. Einstein would be one of the West's potential Horikoshi corollaries--and if Miyazaki had done Albert's biography, I'd expect to see mushroom clouds illustrating his fantasies of relativity. For Horikoshi, Miyazaki provides upheavals and disasters as highlight to each of his life events: He first meets his wife in a train crash; in a lilting epilogue, when Jiro bids farewell to his dead wife, Miyazaki offers fields of devastation and a village in flames. Throughout, Miyazaki presents earthquakes, rainstorms, sudden bursts of wind as reminders of...what? The inevitability of change? The portents of war? The cycles of life and death? All of that; but what compels is the idea of helplessness in the face of larger forces--that although we chase our dreams, we're never really in control of our destinies.