Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

This was first posted in the Filmspotting Forum, under my own thread, called "The Spirited Away Memorial Kimes Family Thanksgiving Miyazaki Marathon" (go ahead, say that three times fast!)

We kicked off the marathon tonight with Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.

Someone once mentioned that it is a pretty long title, but with Miyazaki one must expect that occasionally, such as Ponyo on the Cliffs By the Sea.

Nausicaa is Miyazaki's second feature film, and the first that begins using the themes that reflect his later films, among which are relationship between humanity and nature, flying machines, and war. It is based on a much longer, more complex manga written and drawn by Miyazaki.

Nausicaa takes place a thousand years after human war has poisoned the soil of earth to such a degree that poisoned jungles grew up, insects became gargantuan and huge protectors of nature were created-- Ohms. There are a number of human kingdoms, but the film deals with only three, Tolmekia-- a war-like kingdom that wants to rule the others; Pejite, the sworn enemies of Tolmekia; and the Valley of the Wind, a struggling utopia that gets caught up in the other kingdom's war.

Nausicaa herself is Miyazaki's saint-- the ultimate peacemaker. She is frankly an ideal Buddhist saint, who communes with all creatures, and seeks to make peace with all. She is especially focused on creating harmony between humanity and nature, trying to heal the 1000 year old rift. Throughout that thousand years, the poisoned jungles and humanity have been warring with each other, each attempting to overthrow the other's rule. Only Nausicaa realizes that humanity would perish without the jungle and that the jungle can flourish under humanity's enlightened guidance. Nausicaa is somehow able to understand the true nature of whatever she is facing. Instead of reacting to a threat, she responds to the fear behind the threat. Instead of seeing the death of the toxic jungle, she sees the beauty of it. She works with the nature of whatever is before her in order to create harmony with all creatures.

On the surface, this film seems weaker than other Miyazaki. Most Miyazaki are amazing in the detail of the world that was created for the film, and Nausicaa is no different in that. But the dialog is less rich and entertaining, the colors seem washed, and the style of animation is not as fluid as other Miyazaki films. Part of this, though not all, is due, I think because Miyazaki is trying to communicate the bleakness of the world in disharmony with nature. War-- both human and natural-- has taken its toll, draining life from everything. At the end of the film, [spoiler]after Nausicaa's messiahship is realized[/spoiler], the colors suddenly are brighter and everything changes.

Despite it's weaknesses (including a truly lame 80s score), this film is one of my favorites of all time. Despite it's bleakness, it is possibly the most joyful and optimistic of Miyazaki's films, and it plots out the general outline of hope for the future. Other Miyazaki films may communicate that war is bad and that bad guys aren't really all that bad, but this film actually lays out what would need to be done to end war, to change people's hearts. It isn't childish in any way, nor simplistic, if perhaps naive. It communicates that self sacrifice, listening to the another's heart, boldness for another's good and some basic reasoning can create a path out of the bleak world.

Perhaps I like this film because it is very much a religious philosophy I agree with. Perhaps it is because Nausicaa is such a strong character that to me she is the perfect moral hero. But with each time I watch it, the higher my estimation of it is.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

An Open Letter To Muslims

Many are doing evil in the name of Jesus to Muslims
We are American Christians, whom many Muslims claim to be an enemy of submission to God. We have lived in the United States all of our lives, but we recognize that our country of birth has done evil against you, against all of Islam. The United States has destroyed the rule of two Islamic states, and is attempting to put in their places governments that have no desire to do the will of God. Some American Christians have tortured Muslims for little or no cause, in opposition to their very own laws. Some American Christians have killed Muslims for little or no cause. Some American Christians have blamed all of Islam for the evil of a few, although most Muslims would not necessarily agree with the death of innocents, and the military laws of Abu Bakr is opposed to such actions. Some, perhaps most, American Christians characterize Islam as a religion of evil, bent on violence and torture, when Islam is simply the attempt to be fully submitted to God in word and deed.

Jesus is not like that
All Christians claim to honor Jesus (whom the Qur’an calls Isa) as their teacher, prophet, Messiah and example. And yet the actions of these Christians do not reflect the life or teaching of Jesus. When Jesus was attacked by his enemies, he submitted to their torture and did not return torture to them. Jesus told his people to do good to those who hate them and to love their enemies. Jesus taught us to rely on God for His vengeance, and that we could depend on His justice.

Most High God, Holy and Beneficant, we ask that you would have mercy on us for our sin. We ask that you would make us like our Master and Teacher, Jesus, able to follow his way. We pray that we would be more attentive to his teachings.

We apologize for evil actions
Our Muslim friends, we have failed in many ways. We did not rebuke those who did evil in the name of Jesus. We did not pray for the Muslim peoples of the world, asking for God’s help for them. We did not love you as Jesus told us to. We oppose those who call themselves “followers of Jesus”, but kill and destroy and torture. We separate ourselves from those who proclaim the God of Jesus and also declare orders to oppress the innocent. We denounce the false prophets who announce that Muslims are killed rightly or that no son of Ishmael will stand right before God.
Most High God, Merciful and Mighty, forgive us for our sins. Forgive us for not acting and speaking like Jesus. We have sinned before you and ask for a way for us to stand before you pure.

Jesus will come to judge
Even as many Muslims teach, Jesus himself declared that he would come to judge his people. He said that when he comes, he will not accept everyone who call themselves “Christian” or who call him “Lord.” Rather, he said that he will judge his people by what they do-- he will look at his people and if they have chosen not to obey his commands, given by God, then he will declare before God, “I never knew you.” We live in this fear, both for ourselves and for our brothers.

Most High God, we do not want to see our brothers hated by Jesus. We do not want to see them destroyed. And so we ask that You would help them change their ways. We pray that You would teach them to stop killing and hating Muslims, but to treat them as friends.

Words of Jesus from the Injeel:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

“Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.”

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'”

“Do not return evil for evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Monday, November 16, 2009

Warning: This Post May Not Be Suitable for Children

This is a response to a discussion on Filmspotting Forum concerning the use of the term "bitch" in the movie Dear Zachary, which a nice, older man is using to describe the female killer of his son. The discussion begins with a woman who said she was sympathetic with the man until he said that and it made her question his gender politics. Others said that the use didn't have anything to do with gender politics, but with the emotional experience. I pipe in:

Everyone has gender politics, whether they admit it or not. Nevertheless, I don't know that him using that term reflects his gender politics.

His use of that term is certainly uncomfortable, even as his rare uses of CINECAST! are. From his internal perspective, I would hazard to guess that he is using strong language to express his strong emotion. I don't think he usually uses that language, especially in front of his wife, but the situation, he feels, merits it. And that, I think, we can all agree with.

And he is not using the term "bitch" to speak of any other woman than this woman who was so evil. If it were a man, he might use the term "bastard" or something else that was stronger. Would he ever use this term about his wife? We don't know. If he would, then perhaps we could say that he is expressing something about women in general. Instead, all we see is the use of the term against the most evil person he knew, and so he pulled out the strongest language. Could he have been gender neutral in the term he used? I don't know. Could we think of strong language about another evil person that was gender neutral? In the emotional situation? I doubt it.

I think that the instant reaction against the term "bitch" comes from having it used against women in a more casual way. When Kirk Russell uses it in Death Proof, he is clearly indicating his gender politics (as well as his actions). So we relate the use of the term with this kind of sexist pig, who uses the term casually, to indicate all women. But with this tragic figure of a grandfather, I don't think it reflects on him that same way.