Part 1 of this analysis can be read here.
6/ [00:54:54] / A world with pyramids
After his stay in Germany, Jiro proceeded west, sent by his company “to see the world”. He is travelling in the train by himself when a man sits next to him. Jiro looks happy and surprised when he understands the passenger is Count Caproni, who asks Jiro if the “wind is still rising”. Jiro changes his countenance to a serious expression and replies Yes, it is. Caproni invites him for his final flight and leads Jiro out of the train. They both jump to a new space-time dimension: from a night snow storm Jiro now sees himself on a beautiful grass field and raises his head to see a huge airplane with dozens of highly amused passengers. Caproni, that just pops out of the inside of the aircraft, urges him to get in through a hatch under the fuselage. There is much surrealism in this scene and the laughter and chatter of the crammed people – Caproni’s workers and their families – is almost hysterical. Caproni reveals to Jiro that they are taking a private jaunt on the bomber before it’s delivered to the Air Force. Both take a walk on one of the wings and have an important change of thoughts that touches the ethics and moral of tools for destruction and of dreams. Jiro is in this way confronted with what he desires (a world with or without pyramids), to which he simply replies I want to make beautiful airplanes. It’s then we see a truly beautiful and graceful airplane flying towards him, a dream within a dream.
Before we start analysing this scene as it is, it’s worth mention that what proceeded was a close-up of Jiro sleeping profoundly, while in Germany. It’s a conversation between Honzo and the man that delivered the message that is heard while we see Jiro, cross-fading into the landscape outside the train.
The first thing to notice is that the audience hears the train before any cross-fading takes place. The few seconds that proceed this event are nearly silent after Honzo speaking, leaving room to start a new transition.
The sound of the steam train indicates that we are travelling on one, while we see the landscape of a red evening running horizontally. The film cuts to an image of a powerful train running in high speed as seen from the outside and then to the interior of it, then to a corridor that gives access to each passenger cabin and finally we see Jiro through the window of the corridor. The sound is cut almost straightly into each of these four images. There is no sound alteration on the next shot – a close up of Jiro looking through the window, the landscape and his won reflection on the glass. We hear some footsteps approaching, which Jiro doesn’t seem to notice, confirming reiterated by his surprised expression when he sees Caproni’s reflection on the mirror, already sat down next to him. Caproni invites him to see his last creation. They have to jump out of the moving train.
Caproni opens the door and very abruptly we are given a loud and low-pitched sound effect, resembling a voice effect of a gush, together with strong winds whips and a snow storm, which sounds are likely to be made out of human vocalisation. Jiro jumps to the snow in a tumble and while he is still rolling the landscape turns green and cheerful with flowers. Let’s take this transition with more detail:
In the first frame, besides the natural elements mentioned before, the train sound effects used of a fast moving machine (rails, tracks, screeching, the engine, shackles, steam and the siren to add a sense of overwhelming). Caproni, out of the picture screams jump! and the train siren is no longer sounding, neither the wind whistle is heard as before. Jiro jumps (literally and outside the frame) and the we listen to the sound effect of him hitting and tumbling on the snow – a medium to high-range pitch of dragging something across the soft snow followed by lower-pitch clothes and movement sounds (frame 2), with a careful cross-fade between the two. In just 2 seconds, the train sound has vanished completely, disguised under the action aforementioned. Just fractions of seconds before the ground initiates its transition to the grass-field, a voice sound effect is applied and this one is very similar to the one used opening the earthquake sequence. All in the background is silent, like Jiro is in some sort of shock, and although we see him (4th frame) we also share his point of view, in a way that no other information is presented in advance to us. There isn’t even a sound of Jiro standing on his four limbs and fixing the glasses on his eyes while looking up. Only when the picture show us Caproni’s last design we are able to hear again, like a new chapter just started.
What is presented is largely fun, bright, positive and slightly chaotic composing a surreal scene. Even though it’s a very loud scene with extremely amusing crowd walla and mostly feminine laughter, and the engine sound of the plane, it’s easy to hear happy bird chirps.
The motor sounds of the huge Italian aircraft that we hear immediately are curiously menacing, like the aircrafts we heard in other dreams. Could it be a presage of a bad ending, or due to the incredible size of the machine?
The Japanese designer is pushed into the the machine through the hatch which lid has a distinct fun mouth-made sound while is slid to be shut.
Jiro and Caproni are crammed inside the aircraft but Caproni does not speak loud over a large group of people almost like he’s narrating the scene. And so, his voice really is over all the other sound effects that are slightly lower in volume, giving room for important elements as we cut through shots (the airplane tires for example), at the same time as leaving others muted, like the men in the car following the airplane while on land who are cheering enthusiastically with a flag.
And it is precisely here that Caproni reveals the aircraft is actually a bomber created for the Air Force.
They walk outside the airplane climbing one the wings and both the sound and the music quiet down in order to mark the words of Caproni important. We hear a non-changing motor, some wind whistle occasionally, and their footsteps. They also talk in normal level conversation, with no need to yell over what could in reality be extremely loud, attracting our attention to meaningful information. Jiro’s own dream reveals in this moment: a beautiful graceful airplane approaches with lithesome sound effects to it: they are of a thin object crossing the air full of grace, no engine sounds are present.
We are to wonder if this machine could be so harmonious and technically advanced that it’s practically silent in itself or if it’s due not having an engine developed for it, as Jiro explains to Caproni.
The dream transitions softly from the sky to a city, with very subtle sounds of the shown propeller, a very brief moment of near-silence when Caproni advices Jiro to live is ten years of creativity to the fullest, and an even softer city rumble, which is cut when in the next shot Jiro is in his room working over his desk.
7/ [01:07:32] / Restlessness
Jiro is sent for vacations on the Magic Mountain, the place where he meets again his love Nahoko. Although he is not working, his dreams pursue. In this sequence he goes back to his hotel room after a walk and tries to rest for a moment.
Silence is predominant in this scene, as opposed to most of other dream dimensions we have been analysing so far. Jiro seems to dive quickly into a dream realm. Miyazaki let us see and hear the wind rising outside Jiro’s beedroom before we are transported to his dream. Through a very simple way the sound designer worked the scene, we never let go totally of the exterior world, connecting the diagetic sounds of the girls outside playing badminton to Jiro’s imagery. If we go back and analyse step-by-step, we hear the outside soundscape is made of cheerful feminine voices, the shuttlecock hitting the racket and being projected away, cicadas, and either a distant water stream or wind subtly filling the background. This is what Jiro seems to observe as well when he is standing on the balcony. Immediately when he his laid down, the crickets cease, we hear single bird chirps, but wind is now present in a low register, curling the curtains. The next racket hit, preceded by a quick swish, is processed with a longer reverb and with it we enter the dream.
There are some extremely subtle elements composing the scene when the wing structure of the airplane bends while in the background the wind changes tone as if descending, likely by running a low-pass filter on it, to almost be vanished by the end of this vision. We are visually out of the dream, and are shown the balcony door shutting down abruptly by a wind gust. We are not back until after Jiro is seen staring at a destroyed japanese airplane in an undefined interior place. This scene is also silence dominated.
8/ [1:25:50] / Honzo’s aircraft
Jiro has returned from the Magic Mountain and meets Honzo at the assembly plant, who presents his “radical design’s” airplane.
Honzo affirms that he will only know if the aircraft is able to fly once it’s put to test, but Jiro states it will fly and a vision of the aircraft starting takes scene, lifting up and flying. The sounds of the engines are more stable and less trembling, which attributes a quality of modernity, comparing to others heard so far. However, what makes the sound design of this dream-vision, is the sound of the wind rising, with its first instance just before the vision takes place, and as Jiro says “I can feel the wind rising”. This first occurrence is mouth-made and it’s like an eerie breath, very powerful, like a breath of life – similar to that sound effect heard on the earthquake sequence and on a previous dream. With each of the next two cuts, a identical sound is used but this time they sound slightly more machine-like. The propeller sounds effects seem to be made of mouth-sound effects well.
It’s a very brief vision and one cand not help notice the moment Jiro and Honzo are back on the assembly plant, a thin high pitched air sound that matches the music on that moment is used subtly. In fact, even the flyby sound in this oneiric moment matches the music.
9/ [1:36:32] / A design not build for war
Jiro becomes very busy as soon as he got back from his vacation. He is several attending meetings and holding seminars. In this sequence he is exposing his ideas about his next aircraft to a handful of seminar attendees. He describes in detail the innovations he pretends to implement in his new design, but later he realises that the available technology can’t make it and that the machine should be a lot lighter that projected.
When we first see a projection of the new design, we listen only to the air being cut by the fast airplane going through, at the same time Jiro is describing its features. The beautiful machine flies over the seminar attendees with an ascending air sound that could be mimicking the aw of the young men expressed on their faces; the sound effects of the propellers are heard shortly after in this shared dream-vision, and then the engine as the transition of the picture happens to a possible real application of this machine that now flies over the sea and a cargo with realistic sound effects; the ´breath of life`is used once more this time with the close up on Kurokawa who was probably also dreaming of this aircraft success.
10/ [1:52:01] / Honzo’s concerns
Honzo wants to re-designed his bomber, but it has limited options. He describes to Jiro how the airplane is suppose to perform and the eventuality of it perishing in the war. He knows that a failure is very likely to happen – “one hit and boom”.
The two friends leave the assembly plant on the end of the day and take a walk home, while Honzo shares his worries about the intentions of the Navy. The vision the audience see is the possible outcome of such intentions against the lack of proper technology Japan suffers at the moment. So in this realm we hear the vocal menacing and heavy sounds effects of the japanese aircrafts, like very slow bumblebees, that feel even slower in contrast to the enemy aircrafts. These approach the Japanese bombers extremely fast, and we first acknowledge their presence by their voracious pass-by sound effect approaching the Japanese aircrafts with loud and low-pitched shot sounds, and they quickly strike them with a metallic sound of the bullets hitting and perforating the wings. A lot of fuel is released through the bullet holes, mimicked with mouth-made sounds, like air being released from the lungs with an ‘r’ sound to it. Quickly after an explosion happens, with low-pitch, mouth-made sounds and a screeching high-pitched sizzle, at the same time descendent tones take place; this technique has been used before – for example in the first dream – where the sound of the enemy pass-bys is used only in a descendent way to simulate the Japanese bomber falling into ground.
A sound effect of something like a reverb passby is heard when Honzo and Jiro are shown again in the picture, conveying a sense of impending disgrace and unavoidable fate.
11/ [01:59:08] / The re-encounter
Jiro walks through a field of destroyed airplanes: an almost apocalyptical scene hasn’t been for the green grass and, of course, Caproni waiting for Jiro at the top of the hill. They reunite in their “kingdom of dreams”, where they first met. Indeed they see the Zero, the brilliant airplane designed by Jiro, and Nahoko, who delivers an important message.
This film’s final scene belongs to Jiro’s dream realm. Dominated by incredibly beautiful image and alluring music, the sound design is very quiet, almost settled down as a conclusion. The Zero airplanes are muted, and we hear only to a very faint wind blow on the background and subtle foley sound effects of Jiro and Caproni. However, when the Italian engineer points out Nahoko, the wind rises. When Jiro first sees her, there is a somewhat realistic sound edit, but that only accentuates the dream realm for it has happened so much in previous dreams: the grass blowing in the wind underneath her feet, cutting through his and Caproni’s suits briefly, so that a form of silence underneath the music score give all the room to Nahoko’s words, processed with with a long reverb, and Jiro’s emotional yet discrete reaction in the same sound plane, saying the word arigatô. The wind rises once more to gracefully lift up the umbrella and Nahoko herself.
It’s worth to point out how the moments of the music score coming in and out, together with the sound editing – in particular gaming the silence and the in an outro of Nohoko’s vision, mark the emotional stands of this scene. The end of the sequence is designed with the sound of the wind whistling and rustling pacifically.
Many thanks to Elizabeth Carlyon for her careful reading and comments on the draft of this article.