Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
The Scene: “Rescuing the Insect”
The scene directly follows the crashing a large airship in Nausicaä’s home valley, it is a chaotic scene, with blazing fires and destruction. The scene becomes more sombre, as Nausicaä finds the body of a girl amidst the wreckage, and lays her to rest after receiving her warning to burn the cargo. At this moment, a gigantic insect, hurt from the crash, emerges for the wreckage of the ship, and is surrounded by the villagers of the valley. The villagers fear for their lives, panicking about what to do with the insect, one man saying “Get your guns!” and another shouting “Don’t shoot! You’ll enrage every insect in the jungle”, further when one villager lines up to shoot the weakened insect, one remarks “You can’t kill that with just a gun”. In this moment I believe the film really develops the insects, representing fear, danger and impending doom. The insect, even weakened, seems to pose an incredible threat to the people, and I believe gives the film an underlying hopelessness to it, the fact that the humans seem to be fighting a loosing battle against forces and elements which are much bigger and stronger than they are. The humans of this world are caught in an ever-increasing power struggle with the encroaching growth of the toxic jungle, which not only renders human life impossible with poisonous gasses, but harbours these gigantic, destructive insects. The start of this scene reinforces the elements of fear, destruction and hopelessness, which forms the main challenge of the film which the protagonist must overcome.
Nausicaä arrives onto the scene and almost instantly the feelings of hopelessness and panic start to subside. Organising her people to stay calm, she bravely approaches the insect and, using a bug charm, she rouses the insect to use its remaining strength to fly. She joins the insect in the air with her glider, and we are brought into the ‘second half’ of this scene which is contrastingly calm and tranquil. Beautifully simplistic landscapes, with clear blue lakes, reflecting the pastel skies are joined by tranquil, slow-paced music to create a scene where instead of fearing the hideous insect, you develop an understanding for it.
At the end of the scene, Nausicaä leaves the insect to travel on its own, seeing that it is strong enough to continue, as the insect flies into the horizon, Nausicaä sees a colossal ohmu, the largest of the insects and the embodiment of rage, destruction and danger. The sense of scale we develop, with the already massive insect flying past the ohmu lends to its intimidating nature. Even in previous scenes in the film, we have seen the destructive force of this huge creature, however, in this scene the ohmu is peaceful, and I almost get the impression that it has an air of understanding to it, as if it has observed Nausicaä doing her good deed. It is a beautiful flying scene which captures the beauty of nature, and enforces what I believe is the main message in the film; that if you develop an understanding of them, the forces of nature can change from terrifying to tranquil.
“…even the threatening, dangerous and terrifying creatures and environments of the world deserve saving.”
I believe that this scene really establishes Nausicaä as a character, and in my opinion she is one of the most interesting characters I have seen in a film. Nausicaä is a brave, loyal and determined character, but what I find especially interesting is that she is curious and actively seeks her own development. In a world which lives in fear of the toxic jungle and the insects, killing and burning any part of that environment which comes close, Nausicaä is trying to understand it. She has an enthusiasm for discovery and promotes peaceful solutions. She instills hope and calm to her people and instead of killing the insect, she finds a way to promote it to leave peacefully and as the film develops, her understanding nature becomes more prominent and important to the film. This scene, and the entire film, also takes one of the most refreshing, unique and honest approaches to delivering its main morals: That even the threatening, dangerous and terrifying creatures and environments of the world deserve saving. This film astounded me when I saw it, as it sheds light on the importance of an ecosystem balance, and that even the things that seem the most toxic and dangerous are often there to facilitate the delicate balance of the environment, and therefore deserve conservation and protection. The message of the film is environmental, being recommended by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), but driving the message to protect and respect the environment and creatures which are unappealing, dangerous or those which instil fear, regardless, make this film, the character of Nausicaä and this scene fantastic. I find too often films with an environmental message take the easy option, putting cute and cuddly animals in danger, for humans come in for the rescue; not to suggest that this takes away from the message or makes those films invalid. Nausicaä is a realistic and refreshing respite from this formula, and drives characters to make the unlikely and difficult decisions, spurred on by the intelligent, empathetic and strong main character, Princess Nausicaä. A brilliant film, and a unique take on the relationship between humankind and nature.