Just over a year ago – 30 May 2014 – Chris and I saw The Wind Rises at the Watersmeet Cinema in Bristol. It was Miyazaki’s swansong, the last great animé film he directed at Studio Ghibli before his retirement. It was also the last film Chris and I saw at the cinema. A few days later her MRI scan revealed new tumours and our attention turned to other things.
I watched it again last night on DVD on my laptop, in the campervan with Teddy at my side. Chris and I thought the film was stunning when we saw it and it was just as good the second time around. The characters are far from heroic and their story is quietly underplayed. It’s undoubtedly a masterpiece and about as far from a Hollywood blockbuster as you can get.
Set in Japan in the 1930s, the story centres around aeronautical engineer Jiro Horikoshi and his struggle to create beautiful airplanes during turbulent, war-mongering times. He meets and marries his true love, artist Naoko Satomi but [spoiler alert] she dies young leaving him to continue his work.
Somehow, I’d blanked Naoko’s death from my mind, so it shocked and moved me to tears all over again. Looking back, the parallels with Chris and me are obvious (aeronautics aside); Jiro and Naoko’s fate seems now to have been a portent of how our lives would unravel.
But the film is not without solace. The clue is in the title which comes from a line which Jiro and Naoko speak to each other, taken from the famous poem by Paul Valéry, Le Cimitière Marin. Written in 1920 in the immediate aftermath of the slaughter of the First World War, a seaside cemetery provokes the poet into a profound reflection on mortality, before the thrill of the salt-laden breeze and the crashing surf remind Valéry of his own vitality and call him back to life.
Le vent se lève! . . . il faut tenter de vivre!
The wind rises! . . . We must try to live!