Miyazaki Showcase: Princess Mononoke

August 27, 2004 on 10:03 pm | In Princess Mononoke | 2 Comments

Princess Mononoke is Miyazaki’s second most financially successful film and also, in some ways, his most flawed work. Miyazaki’s immediate style does not quite suit the epic nature of this film. Miyazaki directs free flow stories, and there is so much to this film that it is hard to see it happening in such a small period of time.

Ashitaka is one of the noblemen of a village that has been driven away from the main, politically charged Japan several hundred years ago. An enraged boar god, driven to the point of demonisation by his pain, attacks this village. Ashitaka kills the boar, but in the process is infected by the curse; a curse of anger that feeds on the hate that dwells within him.
Sent from the village to find his cure, never to return, Ashitaka finds himself in a multifaceted spiritual and political war. Various leaders are fighting amongst themselves for the favour of the Mikado, and their ultimate way of claiming that favour is to kill the Deer God and, in fact, all of the gods that threaten the progress of technology.

Princess Mononoke is, in my eyes, a film about genocide. The people of Japan, having come to a point where they can create things for themselves, taking from the environment, say that they no longer have any use for their gods of old. As a result, they indiscriminately kill them. It reaches the point where they actively
This film documents the end of an era, the transition from the days of the gods to the days of the man made. Can man live a life created by themselves, without reliance on their traditional spirits? It’s something that they will have to find out. Did actions similar to those of this film – perhaps not quite so literally god hunting – lead to the state that Japan is in today? Miyazaki doesn’t really have a cynical message about modern society in this film, because the characters are at some of his greyest. No one is beyond redemption, and the final moments are truly full of hope. Despite the lack of their physical presence, spirits will always linger in some form or other.

There are some particularly good scenes, the stand out among the whole film being Ashitaka’s “this is the shape of my hatred!” speech. The way that Hisaishi Joe’s music swells, the look of horror on San’s face – it’s the film’s true highlight. Hisaishi offers some of his most atmospheric and emotive work for Princess Mononoke. You can hear the trees, you can hear the creatures living in the forest, you can hear the march of industrialisation.

There is no denying that Princess Mononoke is a fine film; it’s just heavily congested in places – a lot of traffic for what seems to amount to a few days in real time. There’s a lot to say about this film, but my thoughts will be jumbled, so I’ll leave it here.

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