Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Pattern of Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises

I’ve now been through the whole film ‘harvesting’ frame grabs and I think I’ve got a basic sense of how The Wind Rises is organized. It looks like a ring composition.

The film runs a bit over two hours. It opens with a dream in which, in effect, young Horikoshi has to give up the idea of becoming a pilot. It ends a bit under 30 years later with a dreamtime scene – though it’s not really a dream, I don’t know just what it is, but does it matter? – after Japan has lost the war. There Horikoshi meets Gianni Caproni, the Italian aeronautical engineer who had inspired him in his youth, and his deceased wife, who had – “inspired” is not quite the right word, but maybe – loved him as an adult. Caproni praises Horikoshi’s design for the Zero; his wife urges him, “You must live, Darling.” She floats away in the wind and Caproni invites him to his house to drink “some very excellent wine.”

That’s the beginning and the end. The bulk of the film, of course, is in the middle. Jiro has three dreamtime – let’s call it that for now – interactions with Caproni that bring him to young adulthood and into his job at Mitsubishi. In the first (starting at roughly 00.07.59) Caproni tells him that, yes, he can design planes even if he can’t fly them. In the second (c. 00.23.03) Caproni himself loses a new plane, but urges Horikoshi, who is at the moment fighting fires caused by the Kanto Earthquake, to live. The third encounter comes when Jiro is on a train in Germany (c. 00.55.03). Caproni invites Jiro on his final flight, where he shows him a concept that will inspire the first plane that Jiro designs.

That’s the last we see of Caproni until the final scene. What happens, in effect, is that Naoko Satomi, the girl (and her Maid) he’d helped into the earthquake, takes over the “slot”, though certainly not the role, that Caproni had had in the narrative.

Shortly after Horikoshi returns to Japan he goes out for coffee with the boss and he is made chief engineer for the company’s new project, a carrier-based fighter plane (c. 00.59.00). Horikoshi’s first attempt at a design fails and he is sent to a mountain resort to recuperate. While there he meets Naoko and they fall in love. They conduct a crucial part of their courtship with two paper airplanes, the second of which looks a bit like the concept Horikoshi got from Caproni and that will inform Horikoshi’s new design. Then they must separate as Horikoshi must return to work. While at work he goes into hiding at his boss’s house because the secret police want to question him in connection with a suspicious (anti-Nazi) German he’d interacted with at the resort. This and that and Naoko’s tuberculosis gets worse. They decide to marry (c. 1.40.39) and so forth and he puts the finishing touches on his design late at night in their room while she sleeps and they hold hands.

As the new plane is taken out for testing Naoko sneaks back to the mountain sanatorium, leaving letters behind to explain her actions. The test is successful and she dies at the moment of her husband’s professional triumph. The film moves into its final sequence that begins in a montage of the war’s end (c. 1.59.16), which quickly transitions to Horikoshi’s meeting with Caproni (2.00.12) and then Naoko.

The overall pattern, then, is this:
  • Opening: Horikoshi has a dream in which he crashes and burns because of his eyesight.
  • Horikoshi becomes and aeronautical engineer while interacting with Caproni in dreamtime.
  • Horikoshi is made chief designer on a new project.
  • Horikoshi’s brings his skills to professional fruition while falling in love and marrying.
  • The war’s lost, and Horikoshi meets both Caproni and his wife in dreamtime.
That’s a five-part sequence. In the middle segment Horikoshi is appointed chief designer of the new plane. Before that point Caproni in effect inspires his apprenticeship. Afterward he is inspired by his wife.

This looks to me like another ring-composition. I wasn’t looking for that when I started this post. But that’s what’s turned up.

We’ll see if I still believe that tomorrow and the next day.

* * * * *

I’ll be doing a post that follows Horikoshi’s plane from Caproni, through his paper-plane courtship, into execution. You can see it in the forms of the planes.

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