Jiro Horikoshi (Hideaki Anno) dreamed of airplanes ever since he was a small boy. One night, in a dream, he encounters the Italian plane designer Caproni and decides to follow his dreams. When an earthquake hits, Jiro is working as an engineer, and rescues a young woman and her nurse from a crashed train, forever changing the course of his life.
Hayao Miyazaki says The Wind Rises will be his last film. He has said this before. If, however, this does turn out to be the final film from the veteran director and story teller, then he has decided to go out on a personal note, and on a film that is rather unlike any that he has done before.
The Wind Rises is based on the true story of Jiro Horikoshi, although it has been heavily fictionalised for the sake of storytelling. The story is a fascinating one; a man passionate about making ‘beautiful dreams’ ends up making war machines that are used to destroy life, not celebrate it. Of course Miyazaki injects the story with a little magic, and manages to make a story that could be dark and depressing, somehow uplifting.
Where the story struggles, however, is when the film jumps from one time period to another, with little explanation as to how far we have jumped, or where the story takes place. It takes some time to get used to this and it does detract from the story from time to time. As well as this, the issue of Jiro building planes for war is never truly addressed, it seems as though the character steers clear of any thought about what his work will be used for, whereas a more rewarding experience for the audience may have been to see Jiro struggle with his choices, and perhaps cut down on the charming, but distracting love story.
The animation, as one may expect from a Studio Ghibli film, is beautiful and warm. There is no hint that the studio has any interest in 3D, and their films and stories are better without the cognitive dissonance that the technology provides. Telling a story with so much potential for controversy through animation seems to be a deliberate choice, and the medium certainly has the ability to lessen the impact of a dark and painful story.
The Wind Rises is a beautifully animated, but problematic film. That said, while there is much skimmed over and the focus of the story seems strangely misplaced, there is a lot to enjoy here, and The Wind Rises is certainly a film that leads to discussion, it could have been done in a more cohesive manner though.