Edinburgh Cinema

Edinburgh’s cinemas have their own, different feel. When I visit them, I’ll be writing about both the film and the place, giving you the organic experience. Film critics on the big scale can’t really cater for this, so I hope my reviews bring something extra in this respect.

Princess Mononoke

BeFunky-Collage-Princess-Mononoke-II

Princess Mononoke

They're doing a Hayao Miyazaki season at the Cameo, which means lots of gentle, Japanese animé of otherworlds and ethereal environments. Yesterday I went to watch Princess Mononoke (1997), which to my mind is the darkest and most brutal of the Miyazaki offerings.

Immediate questions occur in reflection, as they did before I decided with hesitation to watch this movie. Are these animations simplistic, or am I being cynical, corrupted by the character-driven sex-and-violence of Western cinema? Or on a broader level, corrupted by ideas of progress and consumption and non-stop economic and technological growth? The characters of the director Miyazaki are not complex: protagonists of indeterminate, youthful adolescence, a world away from those of Western cinema. Their initial worlds are usually peace-loving and unobtrusive, punctured by the intervention of a stranger or some form of dark magic that shakes the protagonist's world. The parallel with Tolkien's adventures is apparent, including the love of nature, and the crying out for harmony between nature and civilization.

Princess Mononoke encapsulates these themes as well as any Miyazaki story. A serious young man called Ashitaka is injured while battling a demonic boar that was poised to destroy his village. Now carrying a curse that's slowly killing him, Ashitaka is advised to go West to find both a cure and the answer to the story of the boar. Eventually he happens on an island village that's slowly killing its environment through its ever-increasing production of iron. Three proud groups of animals are particularly ready to wage war against this village: giant white wolves, giant boars, and slightly stupid apes. It's here that Ashataki meets the feral Princess Mononoke, a human girl who by some form of magic is loyal to the wolves and is treated as one.

Like all the Miyazaki films I've seen, what transcends is not the characterization but the landscapes. The magic forest is the kind of place I'd want to linger in, spiritually, after death; it's a place that speaks of non-linear harmony and transcendental peace, with greens and blues merging with shadows, and not a human in sight. In its sacred pool, wounded animals go for sustenance and recovery. Tiny forest spirits called Kodama, white toddlers with rorschach-like faces, rattle around affectionately, one of Miyazaki's most inspired creations if adapted from Japanese folklore.

So here's why you might want to watch a film - especially this film - by Miyazaki: it is a kind of antidote, or at least, presents a different prism for seeing and appreciating the world, if such a thing seems necessary. Based upon its impact on me, I guess it was necessary. The environmental politics of Princess Mononoke may seem at times unsubtle, though isn't it sad that a pro-environmental sentiment has to seem political, as opposed to just plain obvious? At any rate, what's valuable about these animations isn't the study of character but of the environment in its most transcendent, mystical form. Far away from concepts of Heaven made by humans – the Quranic Garden of Allah, the Gates of a Christian God – is an Earthly, human-free zone where spirits rest in the blues and greens of plant life and its shadows, where time seems not to exist and everything is calm and quiet, and it makes you wonder: are we by our environmental degradation killing heaven?


Written an hour after posting: what a comment to end this review on. I thought about deleting it for its sentimentality and starting again, but it's interesting how the world of Miyazaki can draw you into such a feeling and maybe it's better to keep this review's conclusion as it is, slightly schmaltzy, and yes transcended above human affairs. Perhaps that's what Miyazaki's stories do to me, but even so, I think there's something wonderful in his veneration of the environment and the images it leave with you. G

Ready Player One
Unsane
 

Comments

No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Guest
Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Captcha Image

My Latest Posts

Joker
October 05, 2019

Joker

October 05, 2019

Joker

Joker The trailer did its work, flashing images of anomie and fury perfectly pitched for these unstable times of precarious working conditions, grievance and institutional indifference. For these same reasons, Joker , directed by Todd Phillips and starring Joaquin Phoenix as the protagonist, has attracted pre-release criticisms like few other recen...
September 29, 2019

Resisting Whiteness event 2019

Resisting Whiteness one-day event, Edinburgh Returning for the second consecutive year, Resisting Whiteness came yesterday to the Pleasance Theatre in Edinburgh, providing an intense and inspiring series of panels, as well as a wonderful spoken word section, and a final segment based around the documentary short Invisible by internationally-acclaim...
August 21, 2019

Hearty by Emma Frankland

Hearty by Emma Frankland Raw and dripping with punk aesthetic, this one-woman-show's one-woman emerges in ripped tights and a T-shirt that paraphrases loudly the words of anti-trans theorist Germaine Greer: Lop Your Dick Off. My first impression of Emma Frankland is edgily uncertain and in awe, her Lady-Gaga-looks combined with Heath Ledger's mesme...
August 21, 2019

Pronoun, Pass, & Amnesty International

Transgender drama: Pronoun To be clear at the outset, this was the production of a youth theatre group, not a highly resourced team of experienced, professional career actors – although some of the performances left a powerful impression, and the show as a whole achieved some remarkable moments. Pronoun , written by Evan Placey, follows the transit...
August 13, 2019

Transgender Dance: Sound Cistem

Transgender Dance: Sound Cistem It starts with a heartbeat, the dancer-directors Lizzie and Ayden in slow-motion entry, setting the scene of a nightclub featuring two young transgender bodies who are in fact multiple. Sound Cistem is theatrical dance set to a series of pulsing, dance-floor rhythms and the voices of several trans interviewees projec...
August 04, 2019

Drone by Harry Josephine Giles

Drone by Harry Josephine Giles The blurring of human and machine reiterates here in a comedically surreal, startling performance by the performance poet Harry Josephine Giles. Drawing on visual and aural effects, Giles presents the disturbingly evocative middle-class arc of the life of an electronic, military drone. With Giles as both narrator and ...
August 03, 2019

Burgerz by Travis Alabanza

Burgerz by Travis Alabanza Playing currently at the Traverse Theatre is Travis Alabanza's poignant and comic one-person show, a thought-provoking meditation created out of a jarring personal experience. Back in 2016, Alabanza, a non-binary person of colour, was abused in a London street, with a burger thrown at them by a stranger. The show's series...
August 03, 2019

While transphobes get more hateful, I become more freckly

While transphobes got more hateful, I became more freckly Written weeks after the conference Transgender: Intersectional/International There's nothing good to say, even the films I enjoyed watching this past week, Midsommar and Apollo 11 , I've lost the Sunday will to write. Perhaps Brexit Britain will become like the village cult in Midsommar , bu...
June 09, 2019

Dark Phoenix, John Wick 3, Godzilla: my reflections

Three fantasy movies within three days: X Men: Dark Phoenix; John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum; Godzilla: King of the Monsters The Lacanian feminist Kaja Silverman says about cinema, we go because we need the affirmation, to see the things we hope to see and fail to see in the real world. In Lacanian-speak, Silverman says we go because 'the desire ...