Are we proud of our strife?
Ashitaka is the prince of a tribe who has hidden away from Japan’s unification politics. One day, a monster attacks his village. Ashitaka is cursed for killing him. Modernity has come to his people another way, by the gun which made the boar into a demon. By iron, man is turning nature into a nightmare. Ashitaka has to abandon his aristocratic hairdo & try to save his life.
Ashitaka’s first encounter with people: In Japan, the samurai are murdering & ravaging the land. Freed from his earlier constraints, he kills them. He learns he is losing control of himself. The people he meets are too immiserated to recognize gold. He meets a man who points him in the right direction & tells him the political story: The emperor is trying to acquire immortality at any price. Ashitaka has no interest in this, nor any idea what it means. We learn that to know what is happening in Japan you have to be evil: It is to know & submit to the knowledge that the land is cursed.
That evil man is the objective form of the emperor’s desire for immortality. That is the plot of the story–it would not work without him: It seems all antagonists need him to point them to their fate. His image, corrupt holiness, is worth contemplating. Further, it is very important to notice that this story is one of the many treatments in Studio Ghibli pictures of the question of modernity, is it a corruption?
You see being being gradually reduced to strife. I want to insist on two aspects, one metaphysical, the other moral. First, you see that as resolves strengthen, reasoning loses its purpose. When once all the antagonists have learned all they can learn, it’s useless to talk. Secondly, strife does not show up, whatever you might think, as injustice first. It shows up objectively as ugliness. It is fear seen.
So now let us see how we come to our conflict. Ashitaka finds some broken men in a river, the wolf-demons of the forest, & he learns that the men are more animated by fear than by self-preservation when they see small skeletal forest spirits. He sees the girl for whom the movie is titled, the Princess of anger, drinking blood. This is the effect of something we see, not him: The wolf-demons attack a supply caravan & are rebuffed by iron & fire.
Trying to save the men, he takes them through the sacred groves of the ancient forest. Ashitaka moves from urgent, humane help for painful need–through calm, spontaneous, ancient beauty to–ugly, but orderly modern art & science. This sequence must be the structure of the plot. But why is he blind to it?
Godzilla vs. Bambi