Sunday, March 13, 2011

Nightmares and Realities

My children adore Ponyo, the masterful Hayao Miyazaki reinvention of the Little Mermaid, a tale of a goldfish who wants to be a little girl. I always found the film’s images deeply unsettling – a Japanese fishing village inundated by waves, massive prehistoric fish swimming through nursing homes, ships and cars tossed and disabled by nature out of balance.

The first images of the Japanese tsunami reminded me of a too-real version of Miyazaki’s dream seascape. I thought I would never want to watch that movie again.

Now I’m not as sure. Japan continues to roil in crisis, thousands dead, property destroyed, millions imperiled by nuclear disaster. In the film, Ponyo became a girl, and nature returned to normal. The villagers were unscathed as the water receded, and the boy Sosuke reunited with his mother and fisherman father. I will never watch the movie the same way, but I will watch it and wish it were true.

Children’s literature, fantasies, and movies help us face nightmare visions and emerge stronger. I pray that Japan does as well.

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  1. This is a beautiful post and offers the hope that the human spirit will rebound despite overwhelming tragedy. I believe I read fantasy for just this reason--it helps us believe we can fight back against extraordinary foes. We may be battered, but we can go on.

  2. Very insightful. Thanks for sharing. :)

  3. One of my favorite things about Miyazaki's films is that he understands how dangerous and savage nature can be, but his love for it really shines through. When I lived in Japan, I noticed that people had a certain stoicism about natural disasters - the next "big one" is always coming sooner or later. So the balance in Miyazaki's films is particularly beautiful to me.

    Thank you for your prayers for Japan.

  4. I haven't seen Ponyo, but this post makes me want to change that. Stories or movies can help us move faster into healing, I believe. Thanks for this, Kelly.

  5. I find his films a bit unsettling as well, but also love them. Thanks for posting this -- I'll keep it in mind when next we watch Ponyo.


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