Saturday, February 8, 2014

FROM THE ASHES: Segment # 7

Man vs Nature

   Welcome to another addition of Miyazaki week ( every third week). This time around it's the 1984 classic, Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind. A beautiful story about man vs nature, set in a post-apocalyptic world, with a spirited princess struggling to fight for peace. This fantastical epic was inspired by many works, most notably Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea, Isaac Asimov's Nightfall, and JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. A prominent theme in many of Miyazaki's works is anti war and environmentalism; this film is no exception. In fact, I dare say it makes its points the most successfully. While yes, its in your face, the film's themes are so softly and elegantly executed that one doesn't mind the neon headlights pointing you in the desired directions. On a more subtle and spiritual note, the stories starlet is of a very advocative mind and constantly seeking a peaceful answer for all; very Buddhist notions. A neutral and open minded nature is required and Nausicaä has them both in spades. And thus, the first of Miyazaki's good hearted leading ladies was created. Another future beloved aspect of Miyazaki's Productions, was the decision to work with the composer Joe Hisashi (1950-). At the time, he was known as an experimental artist, dominantly working with neo-classical and progressive rock themes. The soundtrack of this film definitely has moments where it yells loudly that it's from the 80's, but also manages to make sense with a blend of Eastern, Mediterranean, and classical melodies. Being the first original film that Miyazaki wanted to direct, it definitely has its newbie moments. The dialogue throughout many parts of the film is incredibly expositional rather than letting the imagery speak on its own and lead. However, especially towards the latter half of the film and the climax, the action and chaos does not allowed for muted pacing in its writing and dialogue. The imagery still gets it say, and is definitely not left behind. The overrun nature of the forest and plant life absolutely dominate the established world. An overwhelming feeling of enclosement gets across quite well. Humankind needs to keep all its focus and resources on survival, yet constantly bickers over power with land wars, and the powerful all have their own agendas. The film itself is an agenda: a message and a warning. Nature ought never to be forgotten or disrespected, for it will always have come before man and can overtake at any time it pleases. With so many films under the banner of "love the earth", what makes this one so special? So many focus on either challenging ones audiences mind, in order to show the logistics of action and consequence. Other films, overzealously appeal to the audience's hearts by bringing out all of the "feels" and just how darn mean that johnny human is and golly gee we should hate that jerk. Oh and hug the trees and crap. Nausicaä does neither of those, yet both. The good news is that while it appeals to both heart and mind, it also includes the spirit, making it a complete work and rightly satisfying to its audience. The success of Nausicaä gave Miyazaki and crew the needed boost to finally found Studio Ghibli in 1985. Another amusing footnote, the designs of characters and creatures have continued to inspire other creators such as Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi. The horseclaws and their riders inspired the beloved chocobos; a staple of the long time series.

   With all I have said already about the story, it's difficult to say much more without spoiling anything, as is my intention in every review. The film is beautiful, the soundtrack is diverse yet accompanies the film well, the characters and their progressions are all acted with a fierce sense of reality: both the most sly evil in man, and the genuine purity of man as well. As with most Miyazaki films brought to English speaking countries, I quite enjoy the English cast here. An all-out ensemble cast boasts so many talents for this special occasion, some being: Alison Lohman, Shia LaBeouf, Sir Patrick Stewart, Mark Hamill, and Edward James Olmos among others. Definitely worth many viewings, this film is not one to let slip unnoticed.

From The Ashes, V.~

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