The Wind Rises: A heart-wrenching tale of love and war
A dreamy flying fantasy created with meticulous attention to detail, Hayao Miyazaki's The Wind Rises is a sumptuous delight for both the sight and the soul. This work of fiction takes place over a troubled historical canvas including the great Kanto earthquake of 1923, years of depression, the tuberculosis epidemic, and the descent into the war, all of which create what the director calls "a sense of stagnation more intense than the one hanging over Japan today".
The film is a tribute and is dedicated to Jiro Horikoshi, the designer of the Zero fighter plane, and the writings of Tatsuo Hori.
But despite the depressing backdrop of The Wind Rises, ambition and creativity soar. In the movie, Jiro, who is near-sighted, encounters Italian aeronautical engineer Giovanni Caproni in his dreams when he is young and realises that while he cannot fly, an aeronautical engineering career may give him wings.
A heartbreakingly beautiful love story in which Jiro's ill-fated fiancée Nahoko Satomi serves as his muse, The Wind Rises is interspersed with triumphs and setbacks. This helps Jiro to ground his head-in-the-clouds fantasies in the real world of human interaction, love, and inevitably, loss.
Miyazaki's movies have consistently been appreciated by audiences of all age groups. His works like Howl's Moving Castle, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, etc. transcend generational barriers. But The Wind Rises has a more grown-up take than its predecessors, a far cry from the exquisitely childlike joys of Miyazaki's Ponyo.
In the movie, wind is present in every scene, both metaphorically and literally.
The winds of war, as well as the winds of change, are already blowing at the onset. Wind also represents the breath of life and the breath caught in Nahoko's TB-infected lungs. Wind creates ripples in a pond, blows away umbrellas from people's hands, and pushes against an aeroplane's curved wings, allowing it to stay aloft. Wind can be both benign and malevolent.
The Wind Rises can be enjoyed through a wide range of lenses. You can enjoy the picturesque scenes being materialised throughout the film as an art aficionado, or you can witness the journey of Jiro Horikoshi. Just like any other Studio Ghibli film, it puts you in a state of mind where you feel a deeper connection to your surroundings, allowing you to appreciate the little things in life.
Miyazaki, who was horrified by the destructions of war, does not try to downplay the military aspects of Jiro's designs. He simply abstracts them, in line with Caproni's dictum that a world with pyramids is preferable to one without. We are given a portrait of a bespectacled thinker and dreamer in The Wind Rises – a boy obsessed with the inner workings of machines and the way things are put together. A boy who looks around him and acknowledges that what he fantasises about can become a reality.