Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
My favourite thing about ‘The Wind Rises’ is the sound effects. The ghastly whooshing sound the devastating earthquake makes, the sound of the group ripping apart. A fire roars through the town, pushed by an ominous wind. The animation itself is peerless, classic Miyazaki, detailed and magnificent, but the sound. I hadn’t had my ears tingled so much in the cinema. I’m not big on Studio Ghibli, I’ve caught a few of Miyazaki’s films, admired the beauty and cleverness, but I never listened properly. The film scores high on sound alone.
The Wind Rises’ tells the story of Jiro Horikoshi, a pioneering engineer who designed planes; several of his blueprints were manufactured into fighter planes for the Japanese war effort during the Second World War. For all the WW2 stereotypes of the Japanese military as kamikazes and sadists, the film reveals the finesse and ingenuity that enabled the country to recover from the cost of war. The film ends at a key point, and Horikoshi’s cartoon self doesn’t get to reflect upon the devastation caused by his death machines for all that long. Horikoshi in real life didn’t see the war as being beneficial for Japan, and four years before it ended predicted that participating in the war would be catastrophic to the Land of the Rising Sun.
As a short-sighted speccy I related to the young Jiro having his dreams dashed, he can’t be a pilot because he can see for millimetres rather than miles, but he comes to believe that he can be the best God damn aircraft designer on the planet. His idol is Giovanni Caproni, the Italian designer, and Jiro meets him in his dreams. Together the master and the apprentice jump aboard elaborate zeppelin bi-plane flying fortresses and have wonderful conversations.
The film jumps quickly into Jiro’s later teenage years at Tokyo University. Whilst on board a train an earthquake hits, it’s really a harrowing scene, Miyazaki’s recreation of a natural hell. There’s a love story that emerges from the ruins, Jiro falls for Naoko, a girl who he helped during the quake. Naoko is bed ridden by tuberculosis, and whilst Jiro continues to pursue his career as a plane designer she spends time recuperating in hospital. Though he loves Naoko, there’s conflict, because Jiro is also a man in love with his dreams. Whilst Naoko lies beside him, he holds her hand, and using his free hand he sketches through the night. Feeling a little stressed, he begins to smoke a cigarette, next door to the woman who he loves with chronic tuberculosis.
Nit-picking aside the film is a triumph, a delight. It manages to make aircraft engineering exhilarating. ‘The Wind Rises’ is playing in Picture House cinemas up and down the UK. Treat yourself to an overpriced cappuccino served by a disinterested film student and marvel at this movie.