et al. 2020 | Truc-Anh on Hayao Miyazaki | Beyond the Understanding

Princess Mononoke (Mononoke Hime). © 1997 Studio Ghibli - ND.
Excerpt from “Hayao Miyazaki: Beyond the Understanding” by Truc-Anh, featuring Princess Mononoke (Mononoke Hime), published in et al. 2020. © 1997 Studio Ghibli – ND. Image scan courtesy of CoBo Social.
Excerpt from “Hayao Miyazaki: Beyond the Understanding” by Truc-Anh, featuring My Neighbour Totoro (Tonari no Totoro), published in et al. 2020. © 1988 Studio Ghibli. Image scan courtesy of CoBo Social.
TOP
283
37
0
 
8
Jan
8
Jan
CoBo Social Market News Reports
Most of our thinking goes to the surface of our brain. When you really want to say something, you have to go to the subconscious. And then if you’re stuck there, you have to go even deeper.

 

I can clearly remember the first time I saw a Miyazaki movie. It was in 2000 in Paris. My brother brought me to see Princess Mononoke. Now, some 20 years later, I still can’t fully understand this masterpiece nor the exact feeling it produced in me. Why is that? Perhaps because Miyazaki’s art stands “beyond the understanding,” as he said in his interview with Roland Kelts at Berkeley University.

He explained, “Most of our thinking goes to the surface of our brain. When you really want to say something, you have to go to the subconscious. And then if you’re stuck there, you have to go even deeper.”

By this expression, I interpret it to mean something wider, like a collective subconscious. To do it, the master firstly must ground his realm of imagination solidly into a collective reality; our relation to nature, traditions, technology, to our childhood, to bravery and so much more. The ingredient seems so well known yet the taste so particular. This is to me what creates the universal magic of his movies.

 

This is what I want to do for people in my art. To bring their spirit away from this limiting and rationalized world.

 

Firstly, the format. It looks like a children’s movie. The main characters are often kids or adolescents. But the treatment of the narration is complex. Princess Mononoke tells the moral story behind the difficult relationship between humans and animals. Mononoke and her human friend Ashitaka represent the core opposition in the story— that between a human raised by wolves fighting against humans and a human trying to help both sides to live together harmoniously. The two characters might seem at this point to be somewhat similar to the protagonists of Pocahontas, but here is the twist—besides the fact that there is no romance between the two, Lady Eboshi who is leading human troops to kills animals is not a simple villain. She’s also a courageous woman helping poor lepers and women of her village.

In this manner, many characters in Princess Mononoke produced mixed feelings because they play on the balance between good and evil in a largely grey area. This duality is personified in the Deer God who is capable of ravaging his own forest and nurturing it to regenerate just by his presence. We are far from the one-sided villains of Disney and much closer to Shiva, the Hindu god of creation and destruction. Love and hate coexist with each other, without judgment or hierarchy. Like the little spirit in the forest, half tender, half frightful, Miyazaki gives us the feeling of being in a known realm while transporting us much further away, into the complex vision of his world.

 

Excerpt from “Hayao Miyazaki: Beyond the Understanding” by Truc-Anh, featuring Princess Mononoke (Mononoke Hime), published in et al. 2020. © 1997 Studio Ghibli – ND. Image scan courtesy of CoBo Social.
Excerpt from “Hayao Miyazaki: Beyond the Understanding” by Truc-Anh, featuring My Neighbour Totoro (Tonari no Totoro), published in et al. 2020. © 1988 Studio Ghibli. Image scan courtesy of CoBo Social.

 

Miyazaki said, “Nature goes beyond our understanding, beyond the human psychology. When I draw Totoro, I want to be sure we don’t know where he is looking. It’s hard to know if he gets very deep thoughts or is he not thinking at all.”

What happens beyond this mental need to control? When Miyazaki was invited to Pixar Animation Studios to present his new movie Howl’s Moving Castle in 2004, he said to the audience, “My method for this movie is to follow my heart, and don’t try to understand everything.” For sure we won’t and actually, I have to admit—we can’t. The main character Sophie is always changing her own age in a non-chronological way during the movie. The legend says that even animators of Ghibli’s studio lost track while drawing her.

That same year, my friend and I became totally crazy about the hot new TV series, Lost. Showrunner J.J. Abrams revolutionized the production of a TV series by creating enigma over enigma. Should I talk about the polar bear found in the middle of the jungle? He admits that they did not know exactly where they were going while filming it. But this is perhaps why it was a success. When the creator, the characters and the public are on the same level: lost, in this case.

Miyazaki has a similar approach. It is as though he is in a state of dreaming himself and doesn’t control what is happening. Probably the last of his kind, he often drew the storyboard for a film by himself without first having a clear idea of the narration. The production team would often start to draw the final movie scene before he has even finished writing the story.

We now live in a super efficient era. Even in the world of creation, from cinema and contemporary art, music and more; productions times are becoming increasingly shorter but with greater demands. Financial pressures have also become so huge in every field that creation has become hyper-rationalized. Every note you hear on the radio, every image you see in the cinema, and sometimes, sadly, an artwork in an exhibition has been reimagined constantly till instinct is lost. We have to perform and there is no place for doubt and true magic.

In early 2020, Netflix announced the purchase to the rights of 28 Studio Ghibli films—many of them timeless classics and masterpieces—which were released in three batches over February, March and April. The offerings ranged from some of Miyazaki’s earliest films that were still hand-drawn animations
to the new, digitally drawn productions. It’s a shift that supports the idea of French philosopher Gilles Deleuze who wrote, “Every act of creation is an act of resistance.” This is what I want to do for people in my art. To bring their spirit away from this limiting and rationalized world.

 

Hayao Miyazaki, born 1941, is a Japanese animator, filmmaker, screenwriter, author, mangaka and co-founder of Studio Ghibli. Miyazaki is widely regarded as one of the most accomplished filmmakers and master storytellers in the history of animation.

 

 
Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply