Saturday, 25 July 2015

The beautiful agony of innocence

Recently I have had a chance to watch two Studio Ghibli films I hadn't seen before, being 'Tonari no Totoro' ('My neighbour Totoro') and 'Majo no Takkyuubin' ('Kiki's Delivery Service'). To me films like these perfectly symbolise all that is awesome about being alive. No matter the adversity, there is always someone or something to help right things, and good actions are rewarded in the end. Even in a more serious Ghibli film such as 'Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi' ('Spirited Away'), these themes hold true. These make it very welcome, almost magical dreams to slip into.

Of course, Studio Ghibli hasn't just made innocent, everything-will-be-fine films suitable for children and adults alike. I saw 'Hotaru no Haka' ('Grave of the Fireflies') years ago for the first time. It was a heart-wrenching, soul-destroying experience. From the very first opening scenes onwards it's an experience of watching the last vestiges of hope get sniffed out through the ugliest sides of the human psyche until there is quite literally nothing left any more.

Rhyming such incredibly beautiful innocence and joy with utter bleakness and despair as being part of the same world and intrinsic aspects of the human psyche is almost too much to bear. This world is truly hatefully ugly and astoundingly beautiful at the same time, while populated by individuals capable of the most heart-warming humane and incomprehensibly evil acts, often within the same breath.

Innocence is in many ways the most desirable point to achieve in life, yet so frighteningly easily shattered. A recent example of this was when the president of Nintendo, Iwata Satoru, died. Trying to rhyme the image of innocence projected by the video games he and his colleagues, like Miyamoto Shigeru, concerned themselves with for decades with the brutal reality of a medical emergency and sudden death is what upset countless people all around the world upon receiving this sad news. Someone who is basically a good person who manages to bring a smile onto the faces of many people cannot possibly die, right?

This transiency and fragility of everything that is pure, innocent and heart-achingly beautiful is taught to us as an unavoidable fact of life, leaving us to embrace the gritty, bleak and uncompromising reality that remains as the only reality that will ever always be.

Part of me wants to believe so strongly that one can keep dreaming and live innocently and happily like this forever. That there is enough goodness and humanity in people to make it so that no child's dreams and innocence will ever have to be shattered again.

Yet no matter how fervently one may wish for this to become reality, the harsh truth will likely remain that the only way we can experience innocence and happiness until the very end is how the little match girl from Hans Christian Andersen's short story managed it.


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