Newest Review: ... from a dying tribe defends his village from an angry demon which turns out to be a boar god consumed by hate. The boar god touches Ashita... more
A Studio Ghibli Classic.
Princess Mononoke (DVD)
Member Name: will_he_wont_he
Princess Mononoke (DVD)
Advantages: Great film, can be viewed on many levels as an epic bit of storying telling or a comment on society.
Disadvantages: Very few.
Hayao Miyazaki is one of the stalwarts of Japanese cinema, hugely popular out east, and enjoys relatively wide popularity in the West. It was this film that first began to attract attention for him in the West, along with Nausicaa, Valley of the Wind, another superb animated film, before his reputation was secured by Spirited Away. This film was released in 1997, but doesn't feel old at all. It is fairly widely available, definitely so on Amazon etc.
Ashitaka, a prince from a dying people is the 'hero' if it can truly be said that there is a hero in such a piece. He defends his isolated village from a raging boar, corrupted by hatred, suffering a curse in the process. He then must advance on an adventure to rid himself of this curse, rise to meet his destiny, and find out where this boar came from.
After a superbly well done fight against some rampaging samurai, perhaps a little gruesome for some (although in an animated film, blood and gore are either toned up or toned down: in this case, they're toned down.), he meets a sinister monk who directs him towards Iron Town. On the way, he saves some men from Iron Town, left behind by Lady Eboshi, a powerful, ambiguous soul who runs Iron Town. After helping them home, through the forest; an unprecedented journey, he is met at the town with some cynicism, but eventually welcomed in by Lady Eboshi.
As the plot unravels, Ashitaka meets San, a mysterious wolf-girl, who lives in the forest, with whom he forms a difficult, unrequited bond. The coming together of forces in Iron Town with the enraged demons of the forest, with the backdrop of the supernatural culminates in a touching and beautiful ending.
The film has some beautiful environmental sentiments; somewhat a recurring theme in Miyazaki's work, which is certainly something that I believe should be watched by young children. It is harmonious and beautiful; scenes such as the metamorphosis of the Nightwalker are stunning. There is a magic in the film, captured by the imaginative drawings, which are truly beautiful to watch, and the soundtrack certainly contributes to these, adding a peaceful but almost melancholic tone.
I also believe that there are some challenging discourses at work in the film. The idea of an industrial polluter, corrupting Japanese society from the West certainly ring out, and I think Miyazaki is skilful and sensitive in his slight social commentary. Given that this is set in a very traditional, Medieval Japanese era, the invasion of industrialisation, profit and greed echo some of the concerns that a Japanese audience may share at the loss of some of their cultural heritage. For someone who doesn't know a huge amount about Japanese culture, this was very eye opening and challenged some of the perceptions I had about Western consumerism and globalisation; something well worth watching in such an entertaining facility.
Like some of Miyazaki's other films, there is an ambiguity about the protagonist and of the virtues of those who might be perceived of as 'good' or 'bad'. Lady Eboshi for example is both an industrialist, bent on destroying much of the forest in order to access more ore, but also a kindhearted employer, who employs girls from surrounding brothels, taking them out of hardship into a fairer, safer environment. There is some degree to which the audience roots for her because of this, but at the same time, the demons, the Gods of the forest are also deserving of some sympathy, after all, they are having their home, their sacred lands torn up. Yet they are aggressive, blinded by hatred, driven mad by rage, hardly something we want to root for. That is why the ending is so spectacular, be it a tad corny.
This is a wonderful film, and a superb place to learn a little about Japan, as well as a greatly entertaining venture. It is not overly moralising, but challenges some of our perceptions of what is right, what is good, how we act as a society and how are actions affect others. I am glad that the film has been awarded an PG so that it can be viewed by children, however I implore adults not to reject it because it is animated.
Summary: Well worth watching.