Last Saturday I made a mid-morning visit to GOMA’s Cinémathèque for a couple documentaries by Hong-Joon Kim on the subject of Korean cinema. It was hardly an accessible double feature: as a fellow critic commented, it was “too niche for its audience of five people,” presenting interesting but opaque oral histories.
I expected the same ‘inside baseball’ approach from the Studio Ghibli documentary The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, which glimpses inside Ghibli’s halls for the making of Hayao Miyazaki’s final film, The Wind Rises. Rather than a reverential, for-fans-only approach, documentarian Mami Sunada finds both reflective beauty and touching insight into the great filmmaker’s work.
Sunada’s isn’t especially interested in the specifics of how a Ghibli film is made. Rather, she digs into the contradictory, competitive and often cynical way in which Miyazaki approaches filmmaking (defined by comments like, “This notion that one’s goal in life is to be happy … I just don’t buy it.”)
This documentary is arguably a superior swan song for Miyazaki’s career than The Wind Rises; it deepens one’s understanding of that film (how it relates both to his feelings on art and on war) while capturing the delicate splendour of Miyazaki’s best films.