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Premiere of The Wind Rises, Miyazaki’s masterpiece

The UK premiere of new Ghibli film The Wind Rises took place last night at the BFI Southbank. Here’s why this touching, visually arresting work truly is Miyazaki’s masterpiece.

The Wind Rises, or Kaze Tachinu, is widely reported as being Hayao Miyazaki’s last work, since he announced his retirement last September. Although, over the years, we have learned not to take Miyazaki seriously when he says this, since time and time again he has returned to the world of animation, this time we could be proven wrong. The Wind Rises is a deeply personal project for the famous animé director, and it would be a fantastic film to go out on.

The premiere was held last night, Wednesday 23rd April, at 6:20pm at the BFI Southbank. It was an intimate event with limited seating and, according to some sources, had sold out before tickets were available to non-BFI members. This does go to show how popular Studio Ghibli have become – they do not have to just stick to fantasy or children’s films to gain sell-out audiences all over the world.

While The Wind Rises was actually released in Japan in July last year, British audiences have had to wait a long time after it failed to get scheduled on the October London Film Festival. To make up for this, the BFI are holding a ‘Studio Ghibli Season’, where they will be screening most Ghibli productions over the course of the next month, starting with last night’s premiere.

This film follows the story of Jiro Horikoshi, the aviation engineer who was responsible for the A6M fighter plane, and who helped put Japan on the map in the aviation world. Ghibli fans are long aware of Miyazaki’s obsession with aeroplanes – the name ‘Ghibli’ itself, after all, comes from the name for an Italian World War 2 aircraft – and this film is the culmination of Miyazaki’s passion. It is personal for Miyazaki, doubly so since Miyazaki’s father worked for the factory that produced rudders for the A6M.

The A6M Fighter
The A6M Fighter
image © wikimedia commons

The story is a touching one, which follows Jiro as he grows up, a short-sighted boy who can never become a pilot, and who pours all his passion out into the design of aircraft instead. He looks at the world in a unique way; while his friends are learning by rote and poring over equations, he looks at the curves in natural structures, his attention is drawn by the wind and the clouds, he treats equations as a means to an end rather than an end in themselves, and spends his spare time figuring out solutions to problems he has ‘discovered’ exist, rather than the problems set to him in textbooks. It’s a real inspiration to watch.

The dreamscapes that are present throughout Jiro’s life bring that classic Miyazaki fantasy element to the film, except here this magic has matured significantly from Miyazaki’s earlier days. The dreamscapes are snapshots into Jiro’s mind; they change as he grows, they reflect his emotions, the mathematical problems he is having, and  the political situations of the time. The one constant is the presence of Italian aircraft designer Caproni (who, interestingly, was responsible for the original Ghibli aircraft), and it is Caproni who inspires Jiro to carry on and try to bring his innovation to the world.

The magic leaks into the real world in the way it does in real life: the wind breathes, the whir of aircraft engines become a chorus, the sound of the Great Kanto Earthquake he experiences is a chillingly human groan. Instead of making it seem less real, these elements make it seem more honest to reality, because we are experiencing things from Jiro’s intensely brilliant perspective.

The film is both inspiring and saddening. We know how the Second World War pans out for Japan, and it is to be expected that a great designer will be used to create aircraft, not for passenger flight as he would have preferred, but to make weapons of war. Add to that his personal life and relationships, and you have a thought-provoking story, the cinematic experience enhanced by the vivid, dramatic scenery and the amazing musical score from Joe Hisashi, a score which features Italian influence heavily and draws scenes as artfully as the animator’s pencil.

‘The wind is rising! We must try to live!’  is the quote which features heavily throughout the film. It captures perfectly the feeling of great potential and peril which must have been permeating people’s lives in the lead up to the Second World War, but it also leaves us with a sensation of hope. The film is nothing short of an epic, grandiose and worth the experience a hundred times over.

Ghibli art exhibition, featuring posters and paper planes
Ghibli art exhibition, featuring posters and paper planes

Concurrent with the premiere was a small art exhibition near the entrance to the BFI, featuring art from all of Studio Ghibli’s previous works, as well as a collection of paper planes suspended from the ceiling, paper planes which were created by children and adorned with pretty patterns and quotes from past Ghibli films. My personal favourite was the ‘May all your bacon burn’ plane.

The official UK release date is May 9th, and like most Studio Ghibli films in this country, it will have a limited release, so do check up on your local cinemas to find out where you can see it. The English dub cast features Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt. In the meantime, check out the official trailer here:

 

all images © Holly Ferrie, unless otherwise specified

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