Jiro dreams of flying. His eyesight is sore so instead, after meeting an Italian airplane designer in a spirited dream, he wants to design planes. In his eyes, an airplane is a beautiful dream, a wonder that lifts people into the air, but the rest of the world wants his designs, for war.
Likely, you’ve seen announcements of this film before and wondered if you should check it out. From the trailers it seemed to miss some Miyazaki elements such as a heavy use of fantasy. Although the film is about flying, it is more down to earth, it is about Japan 100 years ago and human relationships. But don’t worry, it is a beautiful film.
Miyazaki’s films always have this unmistakable Miyazaki stamp. The thing about Hayao Miyazaki is… that he is so greathearted. His animation is so much about beauty, and he sees beauty in everything. The beauty of landscapes, the beauty of kid’s dreams, the beauty of history and the unfolding of relationships. The beauty of life itself, which he honors. As Jiro quotes in the movie: “The wind is rising. We must try to live.” It makes his characters and his movies honest, noble and courageous. And it makes me feel peaceful and nostalgic.
Unmistakable too is the music by Joe Hisaishi. Always the preferred composer for Ghibli Studio animation, his piano accompanies the views of landscapes and the flowing movements of the characters. It is all so peaceful and innocent. There are interludes now and then when Jiro dreams, and his muse, an Italian designer named Caproni, invites him hitch a ride on his newest inventions. These are scenes of fun and beauty, and Caproni giving inspiring speeches about the future of air travel.
The wind is rising, also refers to darker turns in the story. During a devastating earthquake, Tokyo is in flames and the wind grows into a gale, and those moments too are when you must try to live. Not only that, but the Second World War is imminent, and Jiro’s designs may be used for war. He travels to Germany as well. The historical aspect of The Wind Rises makes it a very rich, interesting film. You are gripped, entertained, and get a good feeling for what Japan was like at that time. Look at all the elements of this film that I already talked about so far: beauty, nature, disaster, dreams, love, history. It is no wonder that it was nominated for the Oscar for best animation (lost out to Frozen).
After The Wind Rises came out, Miyazaki announced his retirement, to the grief of fans all over the world. It is a good closing film for a stunning filmography, and a very personal one for Miyazaki himself. Some critics have shamed Miyazaki for this film, seeing it as a typical attempt of pussyfooting around the atrocities that Japan committed during World War II, but really, the movie is not about the war. The war looms over the movie but it doesn’t feature in it until the end. If I have to say anything bad about the film, it would be that it is lengthy for an animation, about 2 hours.
Instead, it is a film about chasing your dreams and making life worthwhile. It is a film with a very big heart.