Ponyo – Day Ten – #40movies40days

trailer-ponyo-miyazaki-magic-01I am a huge fan of animation.  I think it features some of the most interesting and deeply felt storytelling in cinema today.  Today I caught up with Ponyo (written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki).  NetFlix streams this Japanese anime film instantly.  It is worth the watch.

First of all, the film is stunningly beautiful visually.  The fluidity of the ocean is marvelously and imaginatively depicted and the solid gravity of earth keeps the human characters anchored to the ground in a very real way.  It is a delight to behold.

The film tells the story is about a curious “daughter of the sea” (Ponyo) who is rescued by a very young boy.  She is trapped in a glass jar, a piece of ocean trash washed up on shore.  In helping her out of her predicament, the boy (Sosuke) cuts his finger.  She licks the wound and it heals instantly.  Ponyo, having ingested human blood, begins the transformation to becoming human.  The two children desperately want to stay together.  Ponyo risks all to be with her friend Sosuke.  Sosuke must accept “all the Ponyos” in all her incarnation as a test of true love.

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Here is what Manohla Dargis, writing in the New York Times has to say:  “To watch the image of a young girl burbling with laughter as she runs atop cresting waves in “Ponyo” is to be reminded of how infrequently the movies seem to express joy now, how rarely they sweep us up in ecstatic reverie. It’s a giddy, touchingly resonant image of freedom — the animated girl is as liberated from shoes as from the laws of nature — one that the director Hayao Miyazaki lingers on only as long as it takes your eyes and mind to hold it close, love it deeply and immediately regret its impermanence.”

That is exactly what I’ve been missing in more recent live action releases.  I see so very little joy, hope or the exuberance of life and love on the screen.  And yes this is a fairytale. But there are gentle reminders that things are not at all well in the world.

The ocean is polluted and Ponyo’s father decries how careless humans are with the natural treasures in our world. The youthful exuberance of the children is contrasted with the routine and sedentary existence of the seniors in the center where Ponyo’s mother work (and where Sosuke often visits).  The impermanence of life is reflected in those seniors whose lives are slipping away.

This film really hit home for me.  Sosuke must promise to love Ponyo in whatever form she appears to him.  During our lives we all go through many iterations of ourselves.  Some variations are more pleasant than others. My husband and I have been together since I was nineteen.  In the decades we grown up together we’ve gone through many changes, and very different forms and iterations of ourselves– we’ve undergone rough times and smooth times, seen much sorrow and great joy.

But constancy, fidelity and true love must allow for each change, no matter how difficult.  Right now my father-in-law is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s.  In many ways he is longer recognizable as the man he once was, and yet we love him just the same. We love him in whatever form he appears to us.

That constant love is what Sosuke must promise to Ponyo’s mother, the Goddess of Mercy.  It is his love that restores the balance of nature in the film.  No matter how upsetting or difficult the circumstances it is love that restores the balance and harmony to our own lives.  When we love we see life through the lens of compassion.  When we have compassion it is also possible to find joy no matter how difficult the situation.

‘Compassion and love are not mere luxuries.
As the source both of inner and external peace,
they are fundamental to the continued survival of our species.’
His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama
‘Compassion and love are not mere luxuries.
As the source both of inner and external peace,
they are fundamental to the continued survival of our species.’

His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama

1 Comment

  1. Reply Zach Wyman 25th April 2011

    Hi,

    On a more film-critique note, I’ve seen about five or six Miyazaki films, but this one is my very favorite. I love how grand and epic some of his others are, but, for me, they sometimes get clouded up in too many plot points and details. Ponyo hits just the right balance between ambition and clarity. The scene where Ponyo runs alongside the car on waves taking the shape of fish is one of my absolute favorites, purely joyful and beautifully drawn–I love it when movies go off the expected path and do something special that isn’t strictly necessary for the story.

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