Review of The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness (2013)

Moving picture, 118 minutes

Miyazaki Hayao (cast), Takahata Isao (cast), Suzuki Toshio (cast).

Seen in 2014.

Miyazaki Hayao and Suzuki Toshio, particularly their work on The Wind Rises (2013) at Ghibli. After those two, the most important character is Nishimura Yoshiaki, Takahata Isao’s unenviable producer, whereas Takahata himself appears only very briefly. Other “celebs” portrayed are Miyazaki Gorō and Anno Hideaki.

Miyazaki selects Anno to voice Horikoshi, ostensibly because he imagines the engineers of Horikoshi’s time as having a very special kind of voice that they happen to share with Anno, but it’s quite clear that Miyazaki just wants to work with his old friend. Nobody has the guts to point out that Anno is inexperienced and untalented as a voice actor, and therefore unsuitable. Dreams and madness, indeed.

Documentary assembled through long periods of mostly quiet observation inside the studio, and some interviews. I introduced this at a local cinema on 2014-10-26, capping off 10 years of Japanese animation selected by Seriefrämjandet Göteborg and shown by Folkets bio. We had run out of machinists for the time being. It was Tobias Lind’s idea to retire the program by screening this documentary on Miyazaki’s last feature film.

I like its honesty, portraying Miyazaki as a very intelligent and driven creator who needs a humble assistant—what a job!—to remind him of what to do. He changes the ending of his film near the end of production, supposedly due to pressure from the ascendant right wing. He badmouths Takahata, claiming the man is mentally ill, and jumps onto the latest potential apocalypse with disturbing enthusiasm: He kept a picture album about the (2008) ”depression, year 1” and abandoned it when the financial meltdown did not wreck society. When this documentary was shot he pined for Fukushima instead, never giving up hope for a good cataclysm.

moving picture non-fiction Ghibli Japanese production