Saturday, October 3, 2009
When I first saw the Disney-dubbed Princess Mononoke in 1999 in a West Hollywood theater, I knew not Gibli or Miyazaki. Seeing, on the big screen, the kodamas (tiny white dolls that represent tree spirits) first floating and then falling amidst the dark blue forest gave me the chills. I had never seen anything like it.
That was 1999. I knew next to nothing about environmentalism. But I wept at the end of the movie for the pervasive melancholy.
Three years later a guy gave me some anime tapes after I mentioned how much I loved this movie. Among them was Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind, which I watched alone in the darkness in my apartment into the night, completely blown away. I began to understand.
Something strange is happening this year, as I have been rewatching and rereading quite a few things from 10 years ago, which was a sharp turning point in my life. Perhaps I am unconsciously looking back, taking stock, and marking that turning point. Re-watching Princess Mononoke was far more emotional now than 10 years ago, because I have seen more of the world and grown older.
I rather believe that Ashitaka and San are both parts of Miyazaki himself, one part being deeply humanistic, and one part hating humanity. All the callous destruction and deaths for the purpose of war, of killing each other. This is one of the most uncompromising movies I have ever seen. Even as the main characters are frantically mediating all sides of the conflicts, Miyazaki is steeling himself from caving to a ... not a happy ending, but an illusion of a solution -- that man and nature can somehow find a way to live with each other. He does not really see a solution, and he tries very very hard not to pretend that he does, or that the conflicts can be resolved. That is why, in the end, the sadness soars with Hisaishi's soundtrack.
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