There are far too many Miyazakis on my unseen list, so I’m glad David gave me the push to get to this one. Sometimes overtly environmentalist stuff bugs me, not because I’m anti-environment – just because it often comes across preachy. I knew this was likely to be heavily pro-environment, but it worked for me quite well because the message is really one of symbiosis.
In the film’s post-apocalyptic world, a toxic jungle filled with giant aggressive insects has developed, and is creeping closer and closer to the world’s few remaining human settlements, including the peaceful and fertile Valley of the Wind. Some of the other surviving kingdoms want to use an ancient Giant Warrior (one of the bioweapons that destroyed the world 1000 years ago, now lying dormant) to destroy the toxic jungle once and for all, but the Valley’s princess, Nausicaa, takes a much more pacifist approach, preferring to avoid or calm the insects rather than antagonize them, and definitely not in favor of razing the whole thing. Turns out she’s right, as the toxic jungle is actually cleaning the topsoil poisoned by the apocalyptic war and creating clean soil and water.
That doesn’t take away the fact that the toxic jungle growing in that poisonous topsoil is still dangerous, not to mention the swarms of killer insects that live there. The ecosystem laid out here is complex, and humanity both caused it and is threatened by it, yet if given time to recover, the dangerous forest will ultimately make the world habitable again for humanity. I appreciated that it wasn’t a total reversal of “this jungle and creatures that we thought were dangerous were really just misunderstood and we can all be friends now” – they’re still dangerous, but also necessary.
Of course the film looks beautiful, even when it’s showing ugly things – anime is always incredibly inventive when it comes to depicting things like mutant insects, and Miyazaki films walk the line between imaginative and grotesque better than a lot of anime. The Valley itself is a lovely oasis in a world of desert and toxicity, and you feel protective of it, especially against the invading ships and soldiers from the other far more warlike societies (let’s just say we can probably guess who was neutral in the apocalyptic war).
I will also say how fun it was to see a girl in the role of The Chosen One. I know Miyazaki has done this for years (obviously, this movie is from the mid-’80s!), but it still feels unusual and cool. And her glider is awesome. All in all, greatly enjoyed having this in front of my eyes for two hours.
Stats and stuff…
written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki
starring Sumi Shimamoto, Mahito Tsujimura, Hisako Kyôda, Gorô Naya, Ichirô Nagai
I’m ranking all my Challenge films on Flickchart (as I do all the films I see), a movie-ranking website that asks you to choose your favorite between two movies until it builds a ranked list of your favorites. Just for fun, I will average out the rankings and keep a running tally of whose recommendations rank the highest. When you add a film to Flickchart, it pits it against films already on your chart to see where it should fall. Here’s how Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind entered my chart:
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind > Leave Her to Heaven
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind > Irma Vep
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind < The History of Future Folk
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind > When Harry Met Sally…
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind < Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind > The Nightmare Before Christmas
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind > Haywire
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind < Waiting for Guffman
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind < The Innocents
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind < Metropolitan
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind < Into the Woods
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind < Ed Wood
Final #605 out of 3687 films on my chart (84%)
It is now my #3 Hayao Miyazaki film, my #3 Anime film, my #25 Coming of Age film, my #4 Post-Apocalyptic film, and my #2 film of 1984.
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind was recommended by David Brook, a friend and fellow writer at Row Three. Averaging together this #605 ranking with my #428 ranking of his other film, Harakiri, gives David an average ranking of 516.
A few more screenshots…