The Wind Rises

This (almost) final film from an animation master is a beautiful, adult reflection on dreams, engineering genius and war.
February 19, 2014
Joseph Gordon-Levitt voices Jiro Horikoshi in The Wind Rises
Time Investment: 126 min.
Return on Investment: 123 min.
What exactly is the “wind” in manga master Hayao Miyazaki’s Academy Award-nominated film The Wind Rises (Touchstone Pictures)? Is it the wind beneath the wings of the Japanese planes built by the film’s inspiration, Jiro Horikoshi? Is it the winds of change sweeping a Japan stuck in the past and reeling from the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923? Is it an ominous threat from beyond—the constant presence of death surrounding Jiro, whose planes would attack China and Pearl Harbor during WWII? 
Whatever you believe it to be, the wind is ever-present throughout Miyazaki’s emotional opus, which is very loosely based on both Horikoshi’s life and the 1930s poem The Wind Has Risen by Tatsuo Hori. The wind blows across Miyazaki’s stunning pre-war pastorals, fans the flames that destroy Tokyo in the ’20s and play a part in Jiro meeting his tuberculosis stricken wife. The wind is even articulated with human-made sound effects for added personality. It’s a beautiful—if somewhat controversial—way for the 73-year-old Miyazaki to meditate on the intricate entanglement of dreams and nightmares, love and death, peace and war, past and present. This is by far his most personal project, one that celebrates his life-long love of flight and one that, unlike his other successes like Spirited Away and Pono, lives almost entirely in the real world—a world composed mostly of contradiction.