Princess Mononoke (1997)
“The Fate Of The World Rests On The Courage Of One Warrior.”
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Cast: YÃ´ji Matsuda, Yuriko Ishida, YÃ»ko Tanaka
Synopsis: On a journey to find the cure for a Tatarigami’s curse, Ashitaka finds himself in the middle of a war between the forest gods and Tatara, a mining colony. In this quest he also meets San, the Mononoke Hime.
I’m not really a fan of animation movies, although I have nothing specific against them — they just don’t do a lot for me. What they were able to do — at least before the dawn of the computer era — was describe fantastical worlds which real-life pictures were often technologically and financially incapable of depicting, at least with any degree of realism. Hayao Miyazaki is something of a legend in the world of Japanese animation, and Princess Mononoke is one of his most revered works, possibly surpassed only by Spirited Away (2000). There’s no denying that Miyazaki’s attention to detail is impressive, and his depiction of the forestry and landscape in Princess Mononoke Is probably what will last in my memory, rather than the fantastical creatures that live within it — although those rattle-headed sprites are pretty cool.
The story is long and convoluted, and this complexity is probably what most turns me off Princess Mononoke and other films of its type. A large cast of characters and the oblique way in which they and their objectives are interlinked makes the plot close to impenetrable at times. As with much of Miyazaki’s work, the story has an ecological flavour. It harks back to a time when giants roamed the land, and Gods, demons and humans occupied the same world, but also a time in which industry is beginning to encroach on the landscape, decimating the forests and agitating its wildlife. Into this conflict between nature and industry rides Ashitaka, a prince from the East cursed to die from the scars inflicted by a Boar Demon. Other than these details, the plot is too dense to describe without by necessity going into lengthy detail.
Suffice to say, Princess Mononoke won’t convert anyone who has seen any of Miyazaki’s other work and been unimpressed. Those who admire his work won’t be disappointed. Those who have no experience of him might benefit from watching the more accessible Spirited Away before attempting to tackle this worthy but difficult piece of work.
(Reviewed 12th August 2012)