The film opens in a sequence where dreams and actuality meet. Young Jiro meets Italian airplane engineer Gianni Caproni in his dreams where they talk about the beauty of their craft, yet the ultimate destructive nature of it all. Hayao Miyazaki has always presented fully realized universes that seem to border between dreams and actuality.
The plot revolves around the life of Jiro Hirokoshi, the man who went on to design the fighter planes for Japan during WWII.
Miyazaki is a perfectionist in the most unpretentious sense. No frame feels as if it’s gone to waste. The shots of large-scale destruction and landscape feel just as intimately portrayed as a close up of Jiro. Miyazaki breathes life into just about every object, whether it be human, machine or nature. Every machine feels as if it is organic in it’s own way, as if it lives and breathes just like us. I was happy to confirm my suspicion that many of the sound effects were created using human sounds. The plane engines sound like the buzzing of lips. The earthquake moans and groans like a stomachache. It all has life inherent to itself. A part of me thinks that’s what this film was about at a certain level, that even the most destructive things have life within them.
This film displays a unique connection of nature and industrialization. Jiro’s idea for the fighter plane comes from the bones of a mackerel. Within each shot of an airplane or boat lies a wondrous countryside to behold. It hits a point in Japan’s history where machines and the landscape were at an inevitable crossroads.
Miyazaki sympathizes with Jiro’s plight. All he wants to do is to create beautiful planes, but they will end up being responsible for mass death. In the final scene, he recounts his experiences of the war with Caproni and how none of the pilots of his planes returned home. It feels autobiographical on Miyazaki’s part, commenting on how corporate and government types will always seek to repurpose art to their own beliefs.
The title has multiple applications within the film. The wind is what brings Jiro and his love Nahoko together. The wind is what makes his planes fly. The wind is what is driving his country to war. The wind brings forth powerful storms. And then the wind carries those storms away.
At one point in the film Caproni says to Jiro, “The world is a dream.” A part of me thinks that is what Miyazaki has been telling us all along. The world is a dream, and it’s up to us to realize it.