Princess Mononoke (1997)

November 17, 2003 • Film, Reviews

Country: Japan
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Producer: ?
Writer: Hayao Miyazaki

Cast: Yoji Matsuda, Yukiro Ishida, Yuko Tanaka.

Running Time: 134 Min

Plot: A prince is infected with an incurable disease by a possessed God. He is to die unless he can find a cure to rid the curse from his body. It seems that his only hope is to travel to the far east. When he arrives to get help from the deer god, he finds himself in the middle of a battle between the animal inhabitants of the forest and an iron minig town that is exploiting and killing the forest. Leading the forest animals in the battle is a human raised by wolves, Princess Mononoke.

One of the most interesting of contemporary animated films since Akira, Mononoke is the brainchild of master animator Hayao Miyazake. It’s an action-packed adventure-too violent for children-about deforestation and mankind’s urge to obliterate other life forms around it. And it’s a great fable.

The excitement begins as the prince of a nearly-extinct tribe defeats a demon-boar trying to destroy his village. The killing of the boar leaves him with a death-curse, and he vows to voyage to the lands to the East and find the source of the bullet that turned the boar into a demon, so that he might be able to lift the curse. This takes the prince right smack into trouble, as he encounters the all-too-human-seeming animal gods of the forest, who are waging war against a large iron-smelting settlement in the middle of the forest that is run by the very complicated villain Lady Eboshi.

Miyazake doesn’t sink to absolutes in terms of heroes and villains. Prince Ashitaka’s quest begins for fairly self-deigned reasons and Lady Eboshi wants the head of the forest spirit so that she may heal the lepers and prostitutes she has taken into her “Iron Town.” Most complicated of all is Princess Mononoke herrself, a young woman raised by the wolf-god, Morro; murderously focused on Lady Eboshi as the source of evil, the princess has trouble displaying any vestiges of compassion or sanity. Eventually, though, Ashitaka and the princess join forces to try to get the humans and the other animals to live in peace.

This is a very complex, beautifully-drawn film. A real work of art worth pursuing.

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