The Hayao Miyazaki Collection: The Wind Rises - Blu-ray Review

'A period drama, Studio Ghibli style'.

The release of the Hayao Miyazaki Collection is from one perspective a bittersweet pill to swallow. Miyazaki announced his retirement from filmmaking in September 2013, something he has reportedly done on a few occasions in the past, but a decision that he has assured us this time he is "quite serious" about. The release of all eleven of his films brought together on Blu-ray - several of which for the first time - makes it seem all the more likely that Miyazaki's decision to retire is indeed final. But, whilst the film world is forced to bid sayonara to one of the all-time great directors, The Wind Rises ensures that Miyazaki has gone out on an incredible high.

Set during the first half of the 20th Century, Miyazaki's final film takes as its inspiration the life of Japanese aeronautical engineer Jirô Horikoshi (Hideaki Anno). This is a biopic in the loosest sense: aside from his career designing aircraft, many of the details of Horikoshi's personal life presented throughout the film are entirely fictionalised. That The Wind Rises never attempts to be a historical document takes nothing away from it as a stunning work of cinema however. Miyazaki allows the threat of war to loom in the background of much of his film, not shying away from the issue but also ensuring it never eclipses his central narrative. Jirô's internal struggle with the fact that the planes he loves to design and to which he devotes his life will ultimately be used for death and destruction is skilfully referenced several times, perhaps reflecting the director's own conflicted views on his country's past.

Although there are some fantastical touches here and there, this is essentially a period drama, Studio Ghibli style. Miyazaki presents arguably the greatest level of realism seen in any of his films, doing so with patience and panache. Jirô proves to be a consistently authentic and engaging presence throughout, the director demonstrating the fine craftsmanship of a master storyteller through intricately constructing and balancing each element of his protagonist's story. The director also uses dreams and the imagination of his characters to wonderful effect throughout, allowing his trademark magical style to permeate these sequences whilst also making them feel perfectly in tune with the realistic tone of the rest of the film.

It's surely no coincidence that The Wind Rises often feels reflective of Miyazaki's own career. Jirô dreams of flight from a young age, a theme which the director returns to again and again within his cinematic output. Throughout the film, imagined meetings with his childhood inspiration Italian aircraft designer Gianni Caproni (Mansai Nomura) spur Jirô on in his career. "Airplanes are beautiful dreams, engineers turn dreams into reality", Caproni tells him at one point - a statement which surely could be equally applied to films and filmmakers.

"Artists are only creative for ten years," Caproni advises Jiro later on, "live your ten years to the full". Whilst Miyazaki has surpassed three times as many years working in film, this is undoubtedly the director reflecting on the illustrious career he has had, a career he wants to end on his terms and whilst his talents are still at their sharpest. The Wind Rises allows him to do just that, emerging as one of Miyazaki's very best films, and a truly superb and endearing piece of cinema.

The Hayao Miyazaki Collection brings together all 11 of the director's feature films, from The Castle of Cagliostro to The Wind Rises, on Blu-ray for the first time. It is released in the UK on Monday 8th December 2014.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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