Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki makes his swansong as a director with The Wind Rises, a fictional biography of 20th-century aircraft engineer Jiro Horikoshi.
At first glance, a film about the designer of the Zero fighter plane would appear to be a world removed from the enchanting dream-like fables for which Miyazaki is best known, such as 2001’s Oscar-winning Spirited Away. And, yes, you won’t find any flying pigs along the lines of the porcine aviator hero of 1992’s Porco Rosso.
Yet the same sensibility that suffused Miyazaki’s earlier masterpieces – tender, whimsical, melancholy – is apparent throughout The Wind Rises. The animation, hand-drawn, of course, is as ravishingly beautiful as ever. And there are dream sequences, too, starting with the scene in which the boy Jiro takes off in a plane with feathered wings from the rooftop of his home, and continuing with fantastical appearances in his imagination by Italian aeronautical engineer Giovanni Caproni.
When it comes to the adult Jiro’s life, however, The Wind Rises does address the real historical circumstances that shaped him, including the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923, Japan’s economic turmoil of the 1920s and 30s, and the inexorable slide towards the Second World War, yet gives equal prominence to his romance – invented for the film and delicately poignant – with a young woman stricken with tuberculosis.
As for the devastation wrought by Horikoshi’s inventions – not least at Pearl Harbor – Miyazaki pins the blame on the militaristic Japanese authorities; his film is, above all, an admiring and romantic portrait of its subject. And, fittingly, for a film that Miyazaki says will be his last, it’s also something of a self-portrait in its depiction of a nearsighted, work-driven dreamer whose imagination soars above the rest.
Certificate PG. Runtime 127 mins. Director Hayao Miyazaki.
To activate the sound in the trailer: hold your cursor over the screen to reveal the control panel and click on the volume control in the bottom right-hand corner.