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  A REVIEW AND PERSONAL INTERVIEW WITH GORO MIYAZAKI

This article handles Gedo Senki's screening at the VIFF2006. Containing info and pictures of the screening, a spoiler free review on the movie itself and the interview I had with director Goro Miyazaki. It has been specially written for GhibliWorld.com, as well as Twitch...

Venice International Film Festival. Also known as la Mostra Internazionale d’Arte Cinematografica and part of la Biennale di Venezia. It is without a doubt the oldest film festival of the world, having had its first edition in 1932, and has grown out to be one of the three largest film festivals of the world together with Berlin and Cannes. This year the sunny beach of Lido in Venice was yet again visited by movie lovers from all of over the world. The 63rd edition of the Venice International Film Festival brought them films like Spike Lee’s When the Leeves Broke, Xiaogang Feng’s The Banquet (Zhang Ziyi), Satoshi Kon’s Paprika, Brian de Palma’s the Black Dalia (Scarlett Johansson), Tsai Ming-Liang’s I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone, Mamoru Oshii’s Tachiguishi Retsuden and many, many more.



THE REVIEW. One of the films that certainly should not be forgotten in the festival’s line-up is Studio Ghibli’s latest film Gedo Senki. It is the director's debut of Goro Miyazaki, son of Hayao Miyazaki and former director of the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Japan. Goro Miyazaki’s directing was opposed by his father which caused quite some commotion in Japan, but surely it is more interesting to talk about Goro’s directing and Gedo Senki’s qualities.

Set in "Earthsea", a world consisting of islands encircled by sea, Gedo Senki is film about Arren, a prince of Enlad who after stabbing his father the king to death has left his country. As he had been chased into the shadow of misery, he is constantly insecure and frightened. Arren meets a wise man called Haitaka, a wizard who realized the balance of the world is collapsing. The two become travel companions on a journey to find out the origin behind all the disaster.



Gedo Senki is a film in which director Goro Miyazaki has put all his young passion and resolution. Directly connecting his feelings and impressions of current Japanese society into the movie, elegantly executing the theme of the movie: the value of life and death. Unfortunately, some parts, hints and explanations might be a bit difficult to understand at first. However, I’ve seen it twice (press screening and public screening) and if you just watch closely everything falls in its place, even the parts which you might not be entirely sure of you understood. But then again any movie, novel or play can be like that. The story itself is somewhat conventional, darker and more serious than other Ghibli films and, for those less accustomed, the dialogs might seem to be a bit long, but it didn’t really offend me that much.

When taking a look at the animation and character design, some of the people who are only familiar with recent animation films might not be satisfied. To be honest, that is their problem, not mine. Though I love the style of more recent Ghibli films like Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle, I have a weakness for the older animation style of Ghibli films. And this is exactly where Gedo Senki pushes the button. It really hearkens back to the older Ghibli and pre-Ghibli animation style. With a on purposely clear and simple style, Goro makes a reference to pre-Ghibli’s his father worked on like “The Adventures of Hols, Prince of the Sun” and Ghibli’s like “Nausicaa”. And for the fans, you will notice he has used one of his father’s mangas “Shuna no Tabi” as a major influence as well. As far as the background art is concerned, it is simply beautiful. Though less detailed, the gorgeous background paintings of for example the numerous skies and sunsets/rises just make you dream away.



Of course the fact that Goro Miyazaki is the son of Hayao Miyazaki makes it hard for people not to compare his movie with the ones of his fathers. OK, it doesn’t have the epic feel of Princess Mononoke, the delicate accuracy of My Neighbor Totoro or the magical feeling of Spirited Away. However, it’s a Goro Miyazaki movie, not a Hayao Miyazaki movie. Forget the last name and watch the movie without comparing it to Hayao. Gedo Senki is different, it is a unique movie on itself! The animation, music and story, it’s all there. But to be honest it just misses bull’s-eye, the movie does have it flaws. Still, Gedo Senki is a surprisingly good film and I enjoyed seeing it. Goro Miyazaki has showed great potential and I am looking forward to see him making another movie!!

A PERSONAL INTERVIEW WITH GORO MIYAZAKI. On the 4th of September 2006 various journalists had been given the opportunity to have an interview with director Goro Miyazaki. It was the day after the public screening, which was a great success. With the “Sala Grande” being completely filled with festival visitors, an audience over 1000 people had the chance to see Studio Ghibli’s newest film. At the end of the film director Goro Miyazaki and producer Toshio Suzuki received a standing ovation for at least 6 minutes and 13 seconds (checking the length of the ending theme song on the OST CD). To be honest I was quite moved seeing Goro and Toshio receiving the ovation, waving back to the audience and Goro signing his autograph for a little boy. You could just see they were both very happy and it all paid off. Of course afterwards producer Toshio Suzuki told he was very happy with the audience’s ovation.



The day after the screening I had the chance to visit the garden of one of the hotels just outside the festival area and ask director Goro Miyazaki some questions during an interview…

To break the ice, in your press conference with producer Toshio Suzuki, Suzuki mentioned that Studio Ghibli movies are first and foremost aimed at children. What do you think about that (note: concerning the type of movie Gedo Senki is)?

"Yes, I also agree, the medium of animation is for children and that you can include teenagers."

And if you had to pick a favourite animated movie out of them?

"Well, I thought about this question over and over and I never really realised, but I think "The Adventures of Hols, Prince of the Sun" is my favourite. The overall style of the film is more or less the same with Hayao Miyazaki, but on the other hand how to illustrate characters in terms of direction I was largely influenced by Isao Takahata."



I can really see you used it as an influence. Please tell a bit more about your inspirations for this film. It seems to be somewhat very European. I saw many references, paintings of Pieter Jan Breugel and perhaps even the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch.

"When we decided to incorporate European style as a setting I used many material as reference. One example is the things I saw when I travelled in Europe. In terms of background art we decided to use various European drawings and paintings as reference. The reason why we chose to use paintings as reference is because we wanted to show the beauty of hand painting. That’s why we chose various hand paintings as reference. However, we didn’t want to make it photographical. And about Munch… Well, I never thought about Munch, but we looked into various other roman painters and other European paintings."



To talk about another art form, you wrote the lyrics for the theme song in the middle of Gedo Senki, but you also wrote a lot of poetry which I understand has been published in a book. Why did you do that and how did you use it for the movie?

"It started out with the singer, Aoi Teshima, we decided to use her in the film because her voice was so attractive. And there was no song, we just decided the singer first. Then I asked Suzuki “What are we going to do next?” and he replied “You write the lyrics!”. So I thought that’s the way to do it, wrote the lyrics and that’s how it started out. At that moment she (Aoi Teshima) was just unknown and a little bit later she decided to produce her debut album and asked Studio Ghibli to help her. Her voice helped us so much for the film, so we wanted to do something in return and therefore I wrote the lyrics for the rest of the songs. It became my homework for Christmas: I spent my Christmas and new year writing the lyrics."

I noticed that in Gedo Senki, but also in other Ghibli movies, evil is often made kind of comical, maybe even made ridiculous. For example Usagi, the leader of the slave drivers. What is the reason for this?

"(laughing) Without him the story would just have been very, very serious and you could not breathe. So I felt it was necessary to have one character like him. Also, he is a very typical company man who tries to act comical, but also in between the company in where he tries to impress the boss. He is a very typical guy in Japanese society: he’s very weak to the boss, but he becomes very strong to his people. "



Talking about a boss or in this case a director, unfortunately you will always be compared and be mentioned, at least in the start of you career, with your father. It is widely known that he has been angry at you for making this movie.

"You know, kids always want to do against their father, so that really motivated me to do something completely opposite of what he wants me to do. So him being opposed to me becoming a director really helped me motivate myself in film making."

But you used some of the people that have worked on your fathers films. Was it easy for you to agree them do it?

"At first, the fact that I was never involved in animation production and also I was indeed a son of Hayao Miyazaki, were reasons the staff were not that pleased to work with me as a director. “If you want do it, we’ll watch you”, that kind of attitude you know. So this was the single most important job that I did, to convince them to do my job."

How did you do that? Because your background is landscaping and things like these.

"Many of the staff of the studio recognised my works of art when I completed almost all of the storyboards, which is a very important element in making animation, especially in Japan. The fact that I did everything by myself convinced them that I could be able to do it."

Without wanting to ask too personal questions, in one of the first scenes of the movie Arren kills his father. If I’m right this scene was not included in the original novel and unfortunately some people have been looking for references. What was the reason for this?



"Well, first of all it is not about me. It’s not in the original story, but the reason why I started with this particular scene is that I didn’t want to make a fantasy with a main character who is just a prince. Arren is a prince but then he has a problem and that problem can be related to many young people in Japan. So the Japanese young generation sees some similarity with the main character Arren. In today’s Japan, the young people are sort of being choked. They don’t see hope in the future, life isn’t that beautiful anymore. They feel being oppressed and that oppression often comes from their own parents. They are taken care of well, but too much in many, many families and they feel pressure and oppression. They’re taken good care, but from the children’s point of view there’s a lot of pressure."

But I thought that in terms of the younger generation in Japan it is freer now than before. They are more traveling, you always see them in Australia surfing and in London setting up stores and selling clothes and fifteen years ago you never saw them. From western society’s point of view they’re freer than they used to be.

"Well, society became richer; a lot of people have much more money. Economically speaking they are free and they can go anywhere they want, but I think there’s a difference between a young person becoming economically free and him becoming mentally independent. They may have money, they may have more freedom and they may look happy, but their inner selves, many of them have problems or worries."

Besides being busy directing animation (note: Goro already mentioned at the festival he understood the work of animation has great magic and that he would like to make a second work), you were previously busy landscaping and being a director of the Ghibli Museum, have you given this up completely?

"Those experiences have indeed helped me to produce the film, but I’m not involved in this part of business anymore. I have no time."

Up to your next movie, Goro-san!