Film

Bummed Over Miyazaki’s Retirement? Watch The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness

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Riveting behind-the-scenes documentary The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness offers some comfort for viewers facing a world without new feature films directed by anime legend Hayao Miyazaki. By distinguishing Miyazaki from Studio Ghibli, the production company he co-founded, writer/director Mami Sunada presents Ghibli as an institution that has grown beyond Miyazaki’s personal vision, juxtaposing Miyazaki’s tireless perfectionism with his employees’ unsentimental feelings about their own work. Filmed during the production of The Wind Rises, Miyazaki’s final feature-length project, this doc presents Ghibli as a creative collective united by what an unidentified employee calls a common need to make superior art. “What’s important here is doing what you want,” he says, before adding “no guarantees of employment here…If Ghibli ceases to appeal to you, just quit. Because I’ll do the same!” Sunada shows how this bracing mission statement mirrors Miyazaki’s own critical worldview in a later scene where Miyazaki dismisses fanboy airplane aficionados who “don’t learn” from their fetishistic obsessions. In that sense, Sunada films Miyazaki like he says, and not as he does, when she highlights Ghibli animators whose professionalism proves Miyazaki is wrong when he says Ghibli will “fall apart” without him. For example, one creator frankly describes working with Miyazaki as a “tough” experience: “The more talented you are, the more he demands…if there’s anything in you that you want to protect, you may not want to be around him long.” Sunada’s critical distance makes Kingdom of Dreams and Madness the clear-eyed celebration that Ghibli’s artists deserve.

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