San Sebastian 2023 | Miyazaki has done it again: ‘The Boy and the Heron’ is his new masterpiece

In The boy and the heron (The Boy and the Heron), Hayao Miyazaki introduces us to Mahito, barely a teenager when he loses his mother in a fire during the third year of World War II. When he moves with his father to a rural town to escape the war frenzy of Tokyo, he begins to establish a peculiar relationship with a heron, which will take him into the world of the dead.

This is how what is presumably the last film by the maestro and co-founder of Studio Ghibli Hayao Miyazaki. The film has been creating huge expectations, not only because, in principle, it is the filmmaker’s farewell letter, but also because it was presented to the world with hardly any promotional images. The secrecy that surrounded her only fueled the (future) legend and with reason: The boy and the heron is, indeed, a new Ghibli masterpiece.

‘The Boy and the Heron’: film review


The sight of a fire raises the curtain The boy and the heron and the flames take up everything in the first bars of Hayao Miyazaki’s new film. It is a neighborhood hospital in Tokyo, but what we see on the screen is not a small fire: it seems like the end of the world, perhaps a nuclear catastrophe.

The echo of Hiroshima and Nagasaki resonates in that initial image of the film that borders on the apocalyptic: Mahito wakes up to the sound of a siren warning of fire in the neighborhood and runs to the hospital where his mother was working, with the urgency of saving her from the flames. He comes across disfigured faces, bodies in the process of decomposition, the worst vision of hell.

The boy and the heron perhaps it contains the most expressive drawing in all of Miyazaki’s filmography and that first sequence of the work not only confirms it, but advances that confirmation, because the thousand and one possibilities of the line find their place in the film. It is probably more expressive than Spirited Awaya film with which, by theme and imaginative capacity, it is directly related.

Like that work, Here too the feeling of mourning is transformed into a redemptive journey through the other world.. On his journey to the other side, Mahito is accompanied by a heron, elegant and then grotesque, who will become his own Charon through the world of the dead and of parakeets!

The birds, in fact, are the protagonists of a fable about the idea of ​​flying alone and letting the windwhich always arises in Miyazaki’s works, take away the sadness and resentment. Parakeets, led by a king who at times resembles an Italian dictator nicknamed ‘Il Duce’; pelicans and other birds that fill with fantasy the chiaroscuros that our protagonist goes through on his particular journey of initiation.

Depending on what sections, The boy and the heron It is demanding, but what a reward! Its story brings together many of Miyazaki’s usual tropes and is therefore understood as his creative testament., apart from the fact that he has announced his retirement. The very idea of ​​Ghibli’s master retiring is unimaginable, but his farewell letter contains the best of his universe: the melodrama of the damage we humans are capable of inflicting on each other, the love we are capable of sharing. .

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