This is part 2 of my critical lens challenge where I’ve taken only a couple of days to use 8 critical lens only using my two recently watched films. This can get kind of long so read part 1 to get a feel for what’s happening, let’s complete it.
Psychoanalysis (WHISPER OF THE HEART)
Whisper of the Heart demonstrates the balancing act amongst the subconscious an achieving a fortified ego. Shizuku school life demonstrates how she suppresses her desires. It’s made clear that Shizuku puts the needs of others above her own. When it’s revealed that Shizuku and her friends (Harada and Sugimura) end in a love triangle, Shizuku refuses to engage in any relationship fearing the repercussions it could potentially have on her friendship.
Shizuku also conceals a lot of her desires or creative expressions. She isn’t incredibly open about her feelings for her mysterious book boy, and she later becomes bashful of her “Country Roads” lyrics after it is scrutinized. This repression is what ultimately leads to her rebellion and overtaking of her Id. The superego has had Shizuku cowering from her desires for love, and acceptance of her own unique identity.
In order to compensate, Shizuku begins using writing as an escapism from her mental burdens of society. Taking her leisure of reading a step further, Shizuku finds herself creating an imaginative narrative painting the picture of her idealized existence. In a dream like sequence, Shizuku images the Baron whisking her onto a frivolous and other-worldly adventure. These fantasy that Shizuku indulges in shows her taking a leap and soaring on wind currents.
“If you see yourself flying in the air with a happy expression, then it means that you have set yourself free from all that was holding you back. In simple words, it means you have liberated yourself from things that were detrimental to your well-being.”Flying Dream Interpretation – Times Now Digital
However, Shizuku’s fairytale ending is short of her fantasies but one essential for her personal development. Shizuku’s exploration of her own wants and desires ends with her better understanding to balance her role within society and the liberty to explore herself. The author of the narrative clearly wants to express her philosophy of enjoying life in moderation. Shizuku achieves victories in expressing herself more than the merit of the work for herself. Yet, she returns to her school studies and her blooming romance ends in promises to the future.
Whisper of the Heart demonstrates that some great journeys happen within rather than expanding beyond the horizons.
Gender/Feminist theory (IN THIS CORNER OF THE WORLD)
In This Corner of The World in a similar fashion to Gone with the Wind is an ode to a time lost in history. As Scarlett O’Hara demonstrates the demise of the Southern Aristocracy, Suzu Hojo the rise of female empowerment. By the film’s end, does the rigid roles of male soldiers and domestic housewives start to dissipate.
Suzu throughout the film is characterized as somewhat of a lousy homemaker. During the war, both genders were pressured to perform their duty and to perform it well.
“ Motherhood and the family became a nationalistic tool, employed with deep and effective precision…The National Women’s Defense Association coined the slogan 国防は台所から (Kokubou ha daidokoro kara; “National defense comes from the kitchen”) and mobilized thousands of women to support the war effort. Many donned aprons, the quintessential symbol of home life, acting as a bridge between private and public circles”Unseen Japan – Post WW2 Feminism
Suzu throughout the film actively tries to conform to the needs of the perfect housewife Sewing her Kimono, cooking dinner, and retrieving rations. However, her struggles with these tasks illustrates the new generations departure from these ideals. There are other merits to a person beyond their normative role in society, Suzu the artist, the dreamer, and the diligent represents that.
The coming of age narrative behind In This Corner of the World, demonstrates Suzu achieving adulthood and becoming the nurturing figure of the next generation. Japanese society was irreversible altered as an effect of the war; but with it came greater liberties for women. What better symbolic gesture than Women suffrage being implemented in 1946 a year after surrender.
In a way Japan had an ideological surrender, whether at the hands of internal movements or enforced by SCAP General Douglas MacArthur the Japanese society at the beginning of the film would cease to exist. The film serves as a ode to the brave soldiers, and assiduous housewives but not a glorification. In This Corner of the World invites the change, and shows that despite tragedy that over the horizon comes a brighter tomorrow.
Archetypal Criticism (WHISPER OF THE HEART)
Whisper of the Heart relies heavily on the troupes of whimsical fairytales to elicit an endearing sense of adventure into the mundane struggle of adolescence. Shizuku embodies the maiden archetype of a heroine that is pure and innocent, but ultimately oblivious to the true inner workings of their world. Shizuku displays her naivety through her understanding of love. Shizuku is unaware of the feelings of those around her or understanding her own.
In order to better come in tune with her romantic feelings, Shizuku must embark on her own fantasy-esque journey. Shizuku is lured into her journey by the neighborhood cat Moon/Muta who in a sense is her own white rabbit. This initiates the call to adventure demonstrating the later growth achieved was destined by this fated encounter.
Whisper of the Heart uses the technique of deceitful cover. Most promotional imagery emphasizes and exaggerates the presence of the anthropomorphic cat the Baron, and how he appears to whisk Shizuku away on a magical adventure. The effectiveness of the film comes from it’s ability to both deliver upon the expectation as well as subvert it.
By the end of the film, Shizuku is the typical tsundere who opens up to the jerk with a heart of gold after unraveling his softer side. She achieves both romantic and inner clarity by embarking on a journey into unknown territory, discovering new things, and confronting her inner woes through action. However, the narrative demonstrates that this magical life altering journey doesn’t have to take place in a far-off land of magic and mystic.
The film is effective bookended by “Country Roads”, a song about the comfort and hospitality of home. The romanticized lyrics of the song demonstrate and infatuation and nostalgia for something innately ordinary yet welcoming. By reprising the song to at the finale of Shizuku’s heroine journey does it solidify her tales normalcy yet personal poignancy.
Formalism (IN THIS CORNER OF THE WORLD)
In This Corner of the World uses a high-tinted soft aesthetic to flip the perspective of one of histories greatest tragedies onto the tragedy of its softer underbelly. The film makes great use of dramatic irony, clearly marking the dates of events so the uneasy audience grimaces at the ticking clock to imminent doom.
Yet, the film does have a lulling tone to it, suited to capture the limited perspective of the piece. The story is told from the perspective of Suzu and the gravity and impact of the turbulent world is introduced as she increasingly comes aware of it. The film uses visual motifs to further the influence of Suzu’s perspective by capturing some events through the daydreamer’s artistic side. Seeing the dogfight over the field as an explosion of watercolor or her explosive impact as a chalky stop motion drawing further translate how Suzu is interpreting the events of her life.
However, the film takes up additional merit in not just transcribing Suzu’s p.o.v but with how it develops the overall theme of maturity and growth. Symbols of Suzu’s struggles with maturity come in the form of her hand sewn Kimono, and the literal scars she endures. While some evidence is left of Suzu’s prevailing innocence such as the reoccurring rabbits of the waves, and the kidnapper at the beginning making an appearance nearing the film’s conclusion.
The large emphasis on Suzu conflicted feelings of the desires to protect her pure imagination and need to blossom into an adult homemaker is further illustrated by her relationships. Suzu’s relationship with Shusaku and Tetsu exist as a foil, contrasting not their personalities but what they provide. While both are sweet and caring individuals, Shusaku is comforting and quick to embrace Suzu and be proud of her growth. Tetsu juxtaposes this by being a link to the past, that reaffirms and admires how Suzu still embodies the girl he used to now.
The film commendably wraps up Suzu character arc with the introduction of the little girl. What is believed to be Suzu’s fantasy about the little girl demonstrates a parallel scene to the death of Harumi. However, by displaying a scenario which the outcome is reversed does the film display that Suzu feels that she has learned from her experiences and can do better for herself and others. Essentially the film concludes with Suzu not the one nurtured by her environment but as a nurturing force herself.
WOOF. I mean I struggle with ENG/LIT but all those 1 hour essays back in the day really get you able to just spit it. I’m a bit out of practice though so I’m sure these were kind of rough but not bad for busting it out in 3 days.
Apologizes to Moya and Lita, I wanted to do just quick reviews in my normal style of these as well but I think I’ve said a lot of what I can say. I’m sure it will be fine Moya will enjoy some meaty #Controversed stuff, and Lita liked or maybe has only liked my Your Lie in April review which is more bookish like this. I’m sure it’s fine.
If you somehow have not seen these two flicks, they both are great. If you haven’t heard of the two who recommended this amazing flicks to me they’re pretty great too.
Let me know in the comments what you’re thoughts are, what critical lens did you enjoy reading or is your favorite to write with yourself? Be sure to check out some of my colleagues as they come up with their own #Controversed posts. That will do it for me, thanks for reading and I will see you at the Movies!