Author Topic: The "Spirited Away" Memorial Kimes Family Thanksgiving Week Miyazaki Marathon  (Read 15693 times)

oldkid

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Princess Mononoke
« Reply #20 on: November 26, 2009, 02:55:57 PM »
Princess Mononoke

Princess Mononoke is the most male-oriented of Miyazaki's films.  It has a lot of action, and although there is a love story, it isn't a significant part of the plot.  It is seen through the eyes of a young man, and it certainly is more gruesome than other Miyazaki. 

Alongside of Spirited Away, this is Miyazaki's most visually stunning films.  Every frame has so much to see and as ugly as some of the action sequences get, so many of the forest scenes are gorgeous.  Every movement is perfect, every background communicates as much as the foreground focus.  You could just turn the sound off with no subtitles and it is amazing to watch.



The setting is ancient Japan, just at the beginning of industrialization.  Gods roam the countryside, and every healthy tree has a spirit living with it.  The plot is focused around the wanderings of Prince Ashitaka, who is forced out of his idyllic home because he was cursed by a demonized boar-god. He gets involved in the ongoing battles of the up and coming industrial Iron Town and the gods of the nearby forest.  Ashitaka tries to remain neutral, but finds it difficult after seeing the desires to thrive on both sides of the war, and he is torn by the hatred on both sides.  And there are, of course, complications.  For one, he has fallen in love with a human on the forest side, San, who grew up with the wolf god.  And the Emperor, seeking the key to living forever, has sent a monk to retrieve the head of the forest spirit, which has the power of life.




For many of Miyazaki's movies, I think of them in pairs.  The partner to this one is Nausicaa.  They both deal with wars between communities and the connection between nature and humanity.  The great evil of Nausicaa is fear, while in Mononoke it is hatred.  At one point Ashitaka breaks up a fight between San and Lady Eboshi, saying, "You both have the same spirit," meaning hatred.  It is hatred that causes a god to become a demon and hatred that causes a human to become a monster, even if their appearance does not change. 

The point of the movie, as with Nausicaa, is that nature and humanity should be working together for the benefit of all, rather than battling each other for limited resources.  Ashitaka yells out at one point, "Why can't humans and the forest live together?"  Ashitaka is seen with distrust from all sides because he won't take a side.  But in the end, at least Lady Eboshi considers rebuilding Iron Town in a way that would not harm the forest.

Although Nausicaa takes place long after Mononoke, I think it is better to see Nausicaa before Mononoke, because the potentially idyllic relationship between humanity and nature is more clearly seen there, and the tradgedy of Mononoke can be better seen in this light. 



A question one might come from the film: "Why is it called Princess Mononoke?  She seems more like a supporting character."  I think the key is in the term.  "Mononoke" is not a name, but a word that means "spirit" or, more tellingly, "monster".  The title obviously applies to San, being as much wolf as human and siding with the spirits in the battle.  But the term also applies to Lady Eboshi, who is a marvelous ruler of her town, but when she is ruled by hatred then she is monstrous, horrific.  They are both a "princess mononoke" and it gets to the heart of the film.  For the true monster is the one who is filled with hatred for either humanity or nature-- the one who is controlled by hatred and pours it out on one's enemy. 



When I first saw Princess Mononoke almost ten years ago, I didn't find it that great.  The themes were beyond me, I think, and I couldn't grasp whether the movie was ugly or beautiful.  After seeing so many other Miyazaki, however, I can understand it better and appreciate it much more.  It still has weaknesses: I think that the motivations of the characters, especially Ashitaka, are unclear, and I spend part of the film in confusion. 

Nevertheless, I can now see that it belongs with the top Miyazaki films.  It enriches Miyazaki themes, and displays the power of animation in ways that few films can.  4.5/5


"It's not art unless it has the potential to be a disaster." Bansky

Bill Thompson

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Good write-up, but I do think Ashitaka's motivations are pretty clear. He isn't a deep character, he's your classic good hero, motivated by a simple desire to do what he thinks is right.

'Noke

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Steve, I agree with almost everything you said. Like Bill, I completely disagree with your criticism that some character motives weren't clear. Ashitakas motives made clear sense. He is the mediator. He is the man who is trying to pull these two sides together and to defeat the hatred spewing in the air. He cant bear himself to let either of these sides die.
I actually consider a lot of movies to be life-changing! I take them to my heart and they melt into my personality.

oldkid

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There was at least a couple times in the movie that his actions as the mediator wasn't clear.  Why was he getting Lady E for Iron Town?  It seems like it was just a good excuse to get him in the right place at the right time.
"It's not art unless it has the potential to be a disaster." Bansky

1SO

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Does anyone else remember this version of the attack scene?

Wolves Attack

It uses a music piece that was also in the American trailer for the film.  I saw this clip many times before I watched the movie and it threw me when the film didn't have it.  While it's not anything like Joe Hisaish's beautiful contribution, it cuts to the images really well.  Especially the note as Mononoke flies through the air.
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'Noke

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That music doesnt work at all, because at that moment we arent exactly worried, or are not supposed to be worried for sen, we understand that she is handling the situation, At least at that point. Plus, the scene isn't as much about nailbiting emotion then other things entirely. Also, the music sort of distracts from when Ashitaka says "I dont want to hurt you, im a friend".
I actually consider a lot of movies to be life-changing! I take them to my heart and they melt into my personality.

flieger

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Lovely review steve... need to watch this one again.

'Noke

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Lovely review steve... need to watch this one again.

did you not love it the first time?
I actually consider a lot of movies to be life-changing! I take them to my heart and they melt into my personality.

flieger

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Lovely review steve... need to watch this one again.

did you not love it the first time?
CINECAST yeah...! Saw it on the big, big screen on its original release, not really aware of who Miyazaki was, just that it was grossing enormous amounts at the Japanese box office. And then... you know when you have that sort of cinema experience where you walk out into the open air in a daze... exhilarated, stunned, joyous etc etc? THAT was one of those moments. One of my fondest movie memories ever, and this was when I was 23, not 12... so it was one of those late bolts to the brain that stick with you forever.

Melvil

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Another great review, Steve! I just watched this the other day and I do agree with you that Ashitaka's actions aren't always clear. You know he's always trying to do the right thing, but the specific actions he takes are sometimes difficult to figure out. I attribute that more to the complexity of the world of the film than anything else, I don't see it as a fault, but I understand being confused.

 

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