Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

Rated PG
My Rating: 4 Stars

Hayao Miyazaki

Alison Lohman
Patrick Stewart
Uma Thurman
Chris Sarandon
Shia LaBeouf

I had never even heard of Japanese Anime before a friend of mine dropped off his entire collection of Hayao Miyazaki's creations for me to watch. Since then, I have been treating myself to an important chapter in the history of film.

I like to have a beginning and an end, so I am watching them in order of production. The first one was, of course, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. I have since watched most of his other films but I must admit, none of them had the magic of Nausicaa. Her character is one that people everywhere can aspire to. The story itself is unique. I believe the world view of Hayao Miyazaki is something we can learn from, even if we might not be in 100% agreement with him. This is definitely a children's film but it is so cleverly done that it appeals to all ages and will remain well known for many years.

1000 years after an the collapse of civilization as we know it, most of the world has been taken over by a toxic jungle full of poisonous spores and insects of enormous size. The world's population have nestled themselves into little kingdoms away from the jungle's death... but slowly and as surely as the clouds that block the sun, it suffocates them and leaves their bones for weary travelers to find.

Princess Nausicaa is a teen-age, independent young woman whom we first see exploring the desert landscape via glider. She is a fearless flyer and her heart beats with the wind that keeps the poisonous spores away from her small kingdom. Over the desert and into the jungle, her lithe body and glider are one as her eyes search for her prize. Today, she seeks answers for her father's illness. It weakens him daily... his hands once so strong cannot grip his sword. But the very worst of his sickness is that he can fly no longer.

On the edge of the jungle, Nausicaa's glider is abandoned as she slips and slides into the strange light of the underworld. It is so beautiful, yet without her mask, it would kill her in minutes. As she explores, Nausicaa discovers a resource that will make her people very happy: a perfect Ohm shell. To give the men incentive to come bring the Ohm shell to The Valley of the Wind, she takes one of it's eyes to bring back home with her. But as she turns to go, she catches a glimpse through the eye. Enchanted, she lays back on the Ohm's shell with the eye over her and, amidst the other eyes and ridges, watches the beautiful but deadly spores drift through the jungle's shadows ...

Something breaks into her daydreams. Her heart beats wildly; anger is stirring. The first hint of trouble has come to the world of Nausicaa... but also the first hint of whom she is to become.

Life is never dull for Nausicaa. Mainly because she doesn't allow dullness. Her heart is solely for her people, her family, her kingdom. Her faith in nature and humanity allow her hopes to speak to all who know her. And all who know her cannot help but love her in the end. We see her in rage, fear, defeat, love... we feel her joys and pain. I mourned her.

I can't help but be amazed at this story. In some ways, I laughed at it because it was childish. But I loved it for  being childish because I learned from it. I normally cannot enjoy something that isn't top quality; although this film was far ahead of it's time, it is definitely not a recent production. However, I did not mind that. One little bit. :-)

Things I Liked:
1: The idea that being in harmony with nature should be at the core of our existence.
2: The love that Nausicaa had. Love wasn't part of her. It was her.
3: The bad guys aren't really bad. They're just misguided. ;-)
4: We create many of the problems in nature... and ultimately, our lives.
5: The fact that they used Chris Sarandon  for the villain. The entire movie, I kept saying, "isn't that...? I'm sure that's Prince Humperdinck!" :-)
6: Story, voices, music, etc, etc.

What I Didn't Like:
1: Evolution was really stressed.
2: The Japanese religion is very much part the story. Some of it is truth but some of it isn't. As with any film, eat the meat and spit out the bones.

Do I recommend this film? Yes. :-) View and enjoy!


Anonymous said...

" The Japanese religion is very much part the story. Some of it is truth but some of it isn't."

Quite a statement to make. Japanese views on religion are no less "true" than those of other cultures.

Great film though.

The Ponderer said...

I liked your approach: gentle reproof. Thanks for your thoughts.

Perhaps I should have put it this way: Some of it I agreed with, some of it I didn't.

More recently, however, I have come to understand more about Truth and I do not hold such a firm opinion.

GreenWisdom said...

You could have been a little less biased on this.
I rather like how it stresses evolution and the love of nature.As for Japanese views, it's true for them just as yours are true for you and isn't really a just cause for outside criticisms.
I wouldn't really say it's childish, seeing as it has morals that everyone could benefit from. This is an awesome movie all the way around, inside and out.

The Ponderer said...

Indeed, I could have been less biased. As I wrote in the previous comment, my views have evolved and they are definitely less biased than they were when I wrote this review.

Thanks for being so polite and kind with your criticism. I appreciate this very much.

I would like to disagree with you on one point: when I spoke of this story as being childish, I meant it as a compliment. The story has many layers with many truths interwoven. I think of "childish" as a story for children that does not speak down to them. "Childish" means my mind and heart can grasp it without too much difficulty. It is an amazing story.