Courtesy of BVI France, here is the second in a series of movie clips for Hayao Miyazaki's latest triumph, Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea. Japan's top-grossing movie of 2008 is now being released across the West. I hope you enjoy these short clips as much as I am.
What can I say about this scene? It is marvelous. You could probably show me this one scene, and I would proudly declare it the best animated movie of the year. My frustration and despair at so many loud, obnoxious Hollywood cartoons melts away. Here is a movie fantasy that is rooted emotionally in the real world. It feels almost pastoral, reflective. Notice the longer shots. I almost feel like I am watching documentary footage of a small child playing, lost in his curiosity, and my wandering mind lost in the waves.
Notice how Miyazaki gives character to natural objects. He seems to recognize the iconic nature of animation. He understands that animation deals in symbols, in icons. We are not presented with reality, in the sense that American animation deals with "reality." We are presented with the ideas, the emotional resonance.
We are seeing the ocean waves through the imagination of a five-year-old child. Adults have learned to explain the mysteries of life away, to think "rationally." But children do not do this. They speak the language of myth and symbol. The rolling waves take on a life of their own, become real characters. The child will probably see faces on the waves and believe they have personalities. The adult will impatiently wave these notions away, and see only water.
For some reason, I am reminded of Thich Nhat Hanh's expression of water and waves. I can't quite explain why. But, then, I still haven't grown up. I prefer Miyazaki's free spirited realm.