Hayao Miyazaki (Director/Original Screenplay)
Miyazaki has forged his own unique style that transcends the limits
of both ordinary animation and live-action with dramatic, action-packed
narratives. His work has long been considered a national treasure
of Japan, and an influence on many leading American animations, his
artistry is finally being recognized by the rest of the world. Hayao
was born in Tokyo in 1941, and was interested in animation as a young
teenager. After graduating from Gakushiun University in 1963, he joined
Toei Animation, the largest animation studio in Asia. Hayao soon joined
forces with Isao Takahata. Together the two went on to make
many famous Japanese animations, including "Wolf Boy Ken", "The Little
Norse Prince Valiant", The Casle of Cagliostoro, Nausicaa of the Valley
of the Wind, and Kiki's Delivery Service. In 1985 Hayao and
Isao Takahata formed their own studio that is known today as Studio
Poems by Hayao Miyazaki to convey his view on the film to music composer, Joe Hisaishi
This film has few of the samurai, feudal lords and peasants that usually appear in Japanese period dramas. And the ones who do appear are in the smallest of small roles. The main heroes of this film are the rampaging forest gods of the mountains and the people who rarely show their faces on the stage of history. Among them are the members of the Tatara clan of ironworkers, the artisans, laborers, smiths, ore diggers, charcoal makers and drivers with their horses and oxen. They carry arms and have what might be called their own workers associations and craftsman guilds.
The rampaging forest gods who oppose the humans take the shape of wolves, boars and bears. The Great Forest Spirit on which the story pivots is an imaginary creature with a human face, the body of an animal and wooden horns. The boy protagonist is a descendant of the Emishi tribe, who were defeated by the Yamato rulers of Japan and disappeared in ancient times. The girl resembles a type of clay figure found in the Jomon period, the pre-agricultural era in Japan, which last until about 80 A.D.
The principal setting of the story are the deep forests of the gods, which humans are not allowed to penetrate, and the ironworks of the Tatara clan, which resembles a fortress. The castles, towns and rice-growing villages that are the usual settings of the period dramas are nothing more that distant backdrops. Instead, we have tried to recreate the atmosphere of Japan in a time of thick forests, few people and no dams, when nature still existed in an untouched state, with distant mountains and lonely valleys, pure, rushing streams, narrow roads unpaved with stones, and a profusion of birds, animals and insects.
We used these settings to escape the conventions, preconceptions and prejudices of the ordinary period drama and depict our characters more freely. Recent studies in history, anthropology and archeology tell us that Japan has a far richer and more diverse history than is commonly portrayed. The poverty of imagination in our period dramas is largely due to the influence of cliche movie plots.
The Japan of the Muromachi era (1392-1573), when this story takes place, was a world in which chaos and change were the norm. Continuing from the Nambokucho era (1336-1392), when two imperial courts were warring for supremacy, it was a time of daring action, blatant banditry, new art forms, and rebellion against the established order. It was a period that gave rise to the Japan of today. It was different from both the Sengoku era (1482-1558) when professional armies conducted organized wars, and the Kamakura era (1185-1382) when the strong-willed samurai of the period fought each other for domination.
It was a more fluid period, when there were no distinctions between peasants and samurai, when women were bolder and freer, as we can see in the shokuninzukushie - pictures that depicted women of the time working at all the various crafts. In that era, the borders of life and death were more clear-cut. People lived, loved, hated, worked and died without the ambiguity we find everywhere today.
Here lies, I believe, the meaning of making such a film as we enter the chaotic times of the 21st century. We are not trying to solve global problems with this film. There can be no happy ending to the war between the rampaging forest gods and humanity. But even in the midst of hatred and slaughter, there is still much to live for. Wonderful encounters and beautiful things still exist.
We depict hatred in this film, but only to show there are more important things. We depict a curse, but only to show the joy of deliverance. Most important of all, we show how a boy and a girl come to understand each other and how the girl opens her heart to the boy. At the end, the girl says to the boy, 'I love you, Ashitaka, but I cannot forgive human beings.' The boy smiles and says, 'That's all right. Let's live together in peace.'
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