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Film

Revisiting the time when Hayao Miyazaki met Akira Kurosawa

Two of the most influential icons of the 20th century, the works of Japanese filmmakers Hayao Miyazaki and Akira Kurosawa are studied and talked about to this day. Over the course of their respective journeys in the world of cinema, Kurosawa and Miyazaki have created unforgettable cinematic masterpieces that changed the art form for the better.

In 1993, Nippon TV came up with the idea of documenting a conversation between the two pioneers by sending Miyazaki to Kurosawa’s house as a part of a programme titled Miyazaki Meets Kurosawa. While Miyazaki had finished making his classic gem Porco Rosso in 1992, Kurosawa’s final film Madadayo was released a month before their meeting.

It turns out that Kurosawa and Miyazaki were great admirers of each other’s works. Kurosawa had counted Studio Ghibli’s masterpiece My Neighbour Totoro among his favourite films of all time and Miyazaki had mutual respect for Kurosawa’s oeuvre, listing his 1954 samurai epic Seven Samurai in his own top 10 lists during interviews.

Kurosawa’s house had a beautiful view of Mount Fuji and the beginning of their conversation mostly revolved around that. As it progressed, their discussion became one for the ages as the two of them spoke about a wide variety of topics – ranging from the construction of the elaborate sets on Kurosawa’s brilliant film Ran to the subtleties of translating the differences in the historical periods of Japan to the cinematic medium.

At one point in the conversation, Kurosawa even said something that left Miyazaki absolutely speechless. He told the master animator that he had really enjoyed the concept of the bus in My Neighbour Totoro, citing it as an example of what he could never have achieved as a live-action filmmaker and for that reason, Kurosawa claimed that he was really envious of the liberty that the art of animation offered to Miyazaki.

“The thing is, I grew up in the city. . . in a time right after the war. . .when my only perception of Japan was that it was an impoverished and pitifully hopeless country,” Miyazaki explained. “At least that’s what we were always told. It was only after I went overseas for the first time that I started appreciating Japan’s natural environment.”

He added that his main motive for making My Neighbour Totoro was to capture the beauty of Japan’s natural environment and the refuge it offered from modernity. Miyazaki said: “It’s funny that I keep wanting to make movies with a foreign [western/European] setting. I made Totoro because I felt the need to make a movie that takes place in Japan.”

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