Movie Reviews Reviews

The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness Review

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A beautiful yet cursed dream

In this day and age, you’d be hard pressed to find an anime fan who has ‘t heard the name Hayao Miyazaki. Seriously, that person would be an anomaly, and one who has missed out on a pillar of the industry. However, whether you are an anomaly or one who does know the works of Studio Ghibli, you may be interested in seeing what goes on behin the scenes, in the years leading up to a film release. That’s right, i said years. Now that’s commitment right there folks.

Set in the distant past of a few years ago, this documentary chronicles the tale of Studio Ghibli’s production of The Wind Rises…though it’s not framed as dramatically as that. I didn’t really know what would be covered coming into this documentary, but I’m honestly glad it was a more contemporary time period. I just found it more interesting to show Ghibli now, with snippets of the past, as opposed to an in depth view into the rise of the studio. If anything, the documentary carries a friendly air about it, covering the colourful characters that make up one of the world’s most prolific studios. We see cheerful faces, laughter, children, sunlight, obligatory calisthenics, all of the things that make people smile. It’s heartwarming, it’s pleasant, it’s honestly nice to see that the back end of an industry that interests so many people across the world possesses the qualities that said people imagine. And yet there’s a certain, unfortunate disingenuousness lurking there.

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The master at work

Certain scenes focus on much more confronting and honest dialogue, mostly spoken by Miyazaki. In his more personal moments, he expresses a certain distaste he has for the world that is being created around him. A world where people make it their goal to be happy, where that is the defining trait of action. As he puts it, he is a man of the 20th century and really does not want to deal with the 21st. This is most certainly one of the hardest hitting moments of the documentary, an insight into the mind of one who has been through so much. Certainly worth receiving screentime, I can’t help but feel the opinion clashes with the documentary as a whole. Though this is by no means the only moment of less than jubilant insight, the documentary still carries itself with the innocence of an anime fan. As if these moments are heard, then ignored for the majesty of the art. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure if that’s brilliant or ridiculous. I’m seriously conflicted here. Part of me wants to chastise the layout of the documentary, yet another part is glad to have seen each segment. Though I am leaning towards the former. The fact that these moments were even included at all only calls attention to the fact that there is a truth omitted from the overall process.

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A timeless medium

When it comes to actual composition, there were a few sequences that I think could have been just a touch shorter. Certain shots lingered for just that bit too long, crossing a little bit into the territory of awkwardness. My main note would be that I think the ending was exactly one scene too long. Though I do understand why the final shot was used, I think that the penultimate scene had a much bigger impact. Admittedly not a tremendous downside, but a noticeable one nonetheless.

With all of these elements existing in one documentary, I can’t help but feel it wound up a little shallow. The presence of these deeper, darker elements denotes a side to the process that we never really see. It’s almost a if the filmcrew’s respect for Miyazaki and everyone at Ghibli places a type of bias upon the product. I don’t mean this to come across as insulting, because I myself am finding it difficult to voice my own negative ideas on this documentary. However, I also believe that I can’t let Ghibli’s prestige sway my opinion. As a whole the documentary captures the whimsy that we believe exists in this industry, but I just feel that it glosses over some important facts that it brings up and falls a tad short of being truly amazing.

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All part of the creative process

Though my thoughts thus far can’t exactly be termed as positive, I still did enjoy The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness. The documentary contains a number of interesting and powerful moments, both of the humorous and heartfelt variety, that are truly interesting, there’s just something that has drawn out my critical side. The balance between Ghibli’s history and it’s present were well balanced and, despite my qualms about its impact on missed content, the cheerful nature of the documentary made for a fun viewing experience. At the end of the day it comes down to what you feel like watching. If you’re looking for an in depth view into Studio Ghibli, you probably won’t be entirely pleased. If, however, you simply wish to peek behind the curtain, you will certainly discover a new respect for the artists that make this medium possible. I know I did…even if my overall tone seems contrary.

See for yourself what goes on at Studio Ghibli via Madman

Grade: B+

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