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Film Review: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

Updated on December 21, 2016
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Written by: Jason Wheeler, Film Frenzy Senior Writer & Editor.

Background

In 1984, Hayao Miyazaki released Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, based on the 1982 manga of the same name also by Miyazaki. Starring Sumi Shimamoto, Goro Naya, Yoji Matsuda, Yoshiko Sakakibara, Iemasa Kayumi, Ichiro Nagain, Hisako Kyoda, Minoru Yada, Mahito Tsujimura, Kohei Miyauchi, Joji Yanami, Miina Tominaga, Makoto Terada, Akiko Tsuboi, and Rihoko Yoshida, with Alison Lohman, Shia LaBeouf, Uma Thurman, Patrick Stewart, Tress MacNeille, Chris Sarandon, Edward James Olmos, Mark Silverman, Frank Welker, Jeff Bennett, Emily Bauer, Mark Hamill, Jodi Benson and Tony Jay providing English voices in the dub, the film grossed ¥1.48 billion at the box office.

Synopsis

In a world dominated by a jungle full of gigantic and dangerous insects, the Valley of the Wind is one of the few places left habitable where the jungle’s toxic spores are kept from settling by the constant breeze. However, the crash of an airplane into the valley leads to an invasion by Torumekia and a revelation that could destroy what’s left of humanity.

Review

An interesting and beautiful post-apocalyptic film, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind practically started it all as far as Studio Ghibli goes. Miyazaki’s constant use of a pro-environment theme in his films really began with this one and it's done quite well. The animation behind the destroyed land was inspired by Minamata Bay’s mercury poisoning, but what’s notable is that the environment responded in both the film and reality by thriving and adapting. Even in a harsh wasteland, nature here is portrayed as welcoming, spiritual, and even restorative for those who would seek to enter in a peaceful manner. This brings about conflict that coincides with the film's anti-war message as there are quite a few characters that don't seek to be peaceful with the land, but seek to conquer it and force it to fit the needs of humans.

That's really where the anti-war message of the film comes into play as the antagonists don’t want to be peaceful with nature because they fear the poisoned forest and the inhospitable wasteland. That fear results in greed for wanting to change it to cater to their whims by force, which leads to them having delusions of grandeur for what they are able to do. Those delusions bring about sparks that could ignite an entire powder keg of war. It's Interesting in that the film shows what some seek to do for the benefit of what’s left of the human race could turn into an event that would ultimately destroy them. Yet, the way nature is portrayed in the film, it would keep thriving, adapting and surviving long after said war. It's a notable irony the film is presenting, where the humans believe they are the ones in control of a changing world when it's the adaptive nature that's in control of stubborn humans.

In the middle of the fear, greed, delusions and conflict is Nausicaä . She’s one of the few who understands the welcoming aspect of nature and how it can be regenerative if one enters into it peacefully. She has a commitment and love for nature that causes her to change other character’s viewpoints on the environment and leads to an newfound understanding and respect for what others initially viewed as hostile and unwelcoming. Everything she does essentially becomes a vehicle for transformation, including her own death. The animals seem to instinctively trust her because they can sense her adoration for them and the environment as well. She’s also not above using the environment for resources, but notably only if what she’s using as a resource has been discarded, such as a molted shell.

The film’s music is also fascinating for an animated film. Having been made in the 1980s, it has a heavy synthesizer feel to it. One of the more memorable aspects of the music is when the film pans over the landscape of the wasteland. The heavy synthesizer really gives a feel for the desolation that's being shown along with the sense that it's difficult to survive in such an area.

4 stars for Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

the postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent WNI's positions, strategies or opinions.

Awards won

Fantafestival Awards

  • Best Short Film

Kinema Junpo Awards

  • Readers' Choice Award - Best Film

Mainichi Film Concours

  • Ofuji Noburo Award

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