Cert: PG Runtime: 118 mins Director: Mami Sunada Cast: Hayao Miyazaki, Toshio Suzuki, Shinsuke Nonaka, Yoshiaki Nishimura and Isao Takahata
I’m not going to make movies that tell children, “You should despair and run away”
My fascination for Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli has grown as of late, the fact he has more or less retired is a sad thing. I have heard about The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness some time ago, I attempted to watch it a few weeks ago and I gave up after 20 minutes. I re-watched it again the other day and I literally couldn’t un-glue my eyes from the screen! What is The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness about then? We follow Japanese film company Studio Ghibli and three of the men behind its success – directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata and producer Toshio Suzuki. The film provides insight into the studio’s success by following the men at work for a year during the production of Miyazaki’s ‘The Wind Rises’ (2013) and Takahata’s ‘The Tale of the Princess Kaguya’ (2013) and capturing them in conversation with their teams.Similar to Miyazaki’s animation work, the studio was warm and filled with natural light. The work style is informal, fun and loving though Miyazaki can be hard to work with at times. It looks like a fun place to work. Now, having learned more about how Miyazaki created his various animation works, I would sure watch his work again in new lights.The style of this documentary by Mami Sunada is rather free-form. It does not offer a chronological discussion of the history of Miyazaki or the studio. Instead, it just lets the staff of Ghibli talk and there isn’t much in the way of structure.
At times, you hear folks talk about some of this history, but people wanting this sort of film should look elsewhere. So much of the film consists of behind the scenes discussions. If Miyazaki didn’t like someone or their work, he said so without being particularly diplomatic about this. And, to be fair, some of his employees talked about him in less than glowing terms and felt free to do so! But what really got me was how the man seemed to have an extremely depressive personality. It’s not going out on a limb to draw that conclusion, either, with his comments throughout the film such as “I don’t ever feel happy in my daily life” and “filmmaking only brings suffering”. He also very candidly said that he didn’t think the studio would survive after his death or with his son in charge. It is moving watching archive footages of these three young men working closely for and dedicated more than half of their lives to this field. Long terms friends and work partners, they have gradually grown into three graceful yet a little stubborn artists. You cannot help but admire their respect for their passion. Also valuable was how candid Miyazaki was in front of the camera, revealing his philosophy, emotions, contradiction, hesitation and imagination. Even though it is very candid, it is very slow at some point and this is the killer blow to the documentary! But it’s an eye opening insight to the world of Ghibli.