Usually, I'll drop about $25 to see a movie. In the case of The Sky Crawlers it was more in the range of $400. This was due to my having to drive to the Toronto Film Festival to see it, which meant an overnight stay in Toronto and the $25 ticket price to see the movie (I bought an extra ticket as a keepsake). I'm never sure if this qualifies me as a man who needs to get a life, or a man whose living life. I was actually wondering this on the long drive to Toronto and was a little embarrassed for myself when self-deprecation began to win out.
Coincidentally, The Sky Crawlers turned out to be a movie that weighed in on my personal argument about life. The animation is all about life and the burden and bliss of living it. I'll circle back to my internal argument a little later.
The Sky Crawlers is set during a time of peace – which seems to be when human beings crave war the most. To assuage the human instinct for war, corporations genetically engineer fighter pilots to combat each other as entertainment for the public. One simply has to turn on the news and these proxy wars are always the "breaking story." On the other side of the news reports are these fighter pilots who happen to be "eternity children". They are teenagers who never grow up. Kuichi, the story's main character, has just arrived at the air base. He's aggressive in battle, but on ground he's contemplative. Maybe even confused. Somehow everything around him feels nostalgic, especially when he is around his commander Kusanagi, for whom he has a strangely familiar attraction.
As Kuichi tries to make sense of these vague yet lingering memories, Kusanagi is at a tipping point of despair from being stuck in a life of perpetual war and adolescence – and she knows that it won't be long before Kuichi reaches the same brink of despair.
The Sky Crawlers moves at a speed-of-life pacing that at times is so slow that it seeks to drag its audience into the same feeling of stasis as the characters themselves. These "eternity children" can't change their state of arrested development, or the wars that they are obligated to fight. So how then do they find internal peace about a life that seems doomed to always walk (not even run) in place?
The great American mythologist Joseph Campbell used to tell his students that if they really wanted to help people, teach them how to live in this world. Mamoru Oshii, the movie's director, seems to be doing just that. He's offering his own hard earned insight about what do with ourselves the moment we decide to grow-up, to mature and explore a life beyond the one prescribed to us by media images.
In his "message to young people" that was part of a prized pamphlet before entering the movie, Oshii reminds us that such simple pleasures as the smell of air can remind us that this life, no matter how redundant at times, is a good one. Indeed, you'll find many of the characters standing in their own silence and breathing in the strong winds around them. In fact, the Sound Engineers for this movie are as important as the animators since a great deal of the movie is near silent, allowing only the sound of air in motion to pervade the film. In such instances, it is the body language of the characters assuming the role of dialogue. If you watch this movie, look for moments of simple bliss; because that's precisely what the film is about.
And that may be why I took the drive to Toronto, and dropped 400 beans to see the flick. Watching a good film is a simple bliss; albeit In this case, an expensive one. But it was worth every penny. The Sky Crawlers is nothing if not memorable, and certainly a movie to revisit when I need a visual reminder to compliment Joseph Campbell's advice to "Follow Your Bliss."
From the award-winning director of the critically acclaimed anime film "Ghost in the Shell", Momuru Oshii, comes another award-winning tale of heroes that have eternal youth, waging a battle they can barely understand. Based on the novel by Mori Hiroshi and adapted for the screen by Chihiro Ito, Oshii's newest film captures powerful thought-provoking commentary about the evils of war and the price of peace, in a world where corporations wage war and young warriors can be legally murdered. … more