For the last few days I’ve been slowly watching The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, which is a Japanese documentary following the making of Studio Ghibli’s The Wind Rises. Now that I’m finished, I just wanted to do a little blog post about it, since I haven’t heard that much talk about the film (though it is on netflix!) Hayao Miyazaki is one of my favourite storytellers who has made some of my favourite movies. The documentary itself is best viewed after watching The Wind Rises, which is presumably Miyazaki’s last film. The Wind Rises is the fictionalized story of Jiro Horikoshi, designer of Japanese fighter aircraft.
The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness is filled with beautiful cinematography, thoughtful interviews with Miyazaki and others, glimpses into Miyazaki’s daily life, and a look into Ghibli’s history and the company’s goings ons on a daily basis. Miyazaki is very candid and natural when interviewed, often speaking while he works and goes ahead with his daily life. The film centres around him, and, for me, one of the most interesting parts of the film was getting to look into his mind and see his thoughts on life. Sometimes he is pessimistic, somedays reflective, somedays frustrated and over worked, and he can even be childlike. But he is always honest.
Miyazaki, Isao Takahata and Toshio Suzuki founded Studio Ghibli in 1985, with eight of the studio’s twenty films having been directed by Miyazaki. The film focuses on the company’s history with some tidbits about other films, but the main focus is The Wind Rises. Miyazaki’s last film (although I’ve heard that before), The Wind Rises was a struggle to make in some ways, since Miyazaki didn’t necessarily want to make it in the first place. He has always held a passion for planes, and I think the film had twice the personal resonance with him, since he saw Jiro as a representation of his father. The film also explores the complexity of war, and the way good people like Jiro (and Miyazaki’s father) contributed to it.
I think some people expected more focus on the other films, and perhaps didn’t expect so much reflection and conversation. I thought that the film was very Japanese, which is to say that it manages to look at a little bit of Japan’s history and current state, as well as having a style that wouldn’t be as common in North America. This movie went beyond being a documentary about the making of a film and is about so many things at once. Loss of hope for the future, life in a rapidly changing world, flawed dreams, and what it is to live. While Miyazaki can come off as negative, I think he makes the choice to remain an idealist. As can be seen with the change of the The Wind Rising‘s ending, Miyazaki chooses hope and life over death.