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The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness Review

I recall an interview Danny DeVito gave, where he said he wouldn’t retire from acting. “Do actors retire? Maybe they do,” he said. Many artists have so much to give, and when one retires and leaves behind such a strong body of work, we are left a little stunned. Are we short-changed? No, not necessarily. It is better to end on a high than slog through, annoying audiences until you stop pumping blood to the heart. So few take heed of the retirement advice. Robert Redford did, as did Hayao Miyazaki. The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness is as much a documentary on the (at the time) final project of Miyazaki as it is on the life and times of the director behind The Wind Rises 

It is not all sunshine and roses, and despite leading such a remarkable life, Miyazaki is not a man of much patience. Detailed within this piece from director Mami Sunada are pockets of his history, the struggle of making a film and his frustrations with the creative process. There is a comforting mindset here. Frustration is not just part of the process, but a necessary, important moment. It is a sign that you are headed in the right direction. It shows passion, and while the sparks of creativity may not fly constantly or consistently, the mere admission of defeat is a positive step. The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness makes that clear, and it is one of the many important, heart-warming messages presented.  

Spirited competition between The Wind Rises and The Tale of Princess Kaguya presents the friendliness between two great creatives. They are spurred on not to outdo one another, but to gain the respect of their peer. The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness only focuses on this slightly, yet the display of encouragement between the two is recognisable. Instead, we are offered a showcase of where and what inspires Miyazaki. Fly on the wall moments are the most rewarding. Giving Miyazaki the time to tell his story is the best way to approach such a varied and lengthy life, it serves Sunada well. Why talk for the subject when the subject is ready to talk of their life and work? They seem frustrated and tired, but so full of life and inspired by the world around him.  

The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness is not just a breach into the Studio Ghibli system, but the culture and work ethic of Japan. Defined more by the madness than the dreams, Miyazaki works passionately and ruthlessly to create another fine piece of work. He is strong in ethic and stronger in spirit. A bold move it may be to have footage of ComicCon whilst talking of the tragedies found in World War 2, there are consistency issues that Sunada does not take into account, but ultimately the information they have gathered is so delightfully incredible and marks a strong look into the mind of a creative, and how his process experiments with how we as an audience experience his work.  

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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