The Importance of Watching International Films: Princess Mononoke

Since becoming a film student, I have been challenged to watch many different films of varying genres. Some of which I have enjoyed and others I would not care to ever watch again. However, by watching such a wide variety, I now believe that everyone should at least give a film a chance before writing it off as something that they would not enjoy.

To challenge myself, I decided to make my way through all of the Studio Ghibli films. After being inspired to do so after loving Howl’s Moving Castle, I decided to give Princess Mononoke a chance.

Wow. Am I ever glad I did?

Princess Mononoke does something that I believe neither animated nor live-action films have done in recent years; it challenges the audience with preconceived ideas that they have about what nature really is.

Growing up in school (in Canada, anyway), we are taught about the beauty and majesty of nature. Nature is something that we use to our advantage by taking from it. As climate change shows us, this greed is something that shouldn’t be done.

In Princess Mononoke, nature is a living and breathing entity, that’s furious and full of rage at human beings for taking from it. Through different forest spirits, such as wolves and boars, it shows nature’s sense of anger, as one that can lash out and fight back against us.

In the end, things end as they always do. Both sides have lost so much but both feel satisfied with the conclusion of what has happened, for now. However, the movie leaves with an insinuation that this will be something that will take place again. At some point, there will be another group of humans who try to dominate nature, and nature will fight back in an attempt to hold them back and ‘save the forest.’

The film demonstrates this lifelong fight in brutal ways – not mincing the horrors that come with war. We see characters have their limbs cut off in different ways, and blood is constantly portrayed as characters fight one another. While not exactly appropriate for incredibly young children (as some of the images could terrify them), I believe that this film is appropriate for older children and all adults.

A grave mistake many movie watchers do today is assuming that all animated films are only for children. This is something that I actively fight against as I try to relate that this is not the case. There are lessons to be learned for every age, and the medium of animation allows directors and creators plenty of flexibility when choosing how they want to portray their story. Some things can simply not be done in live-action.

If you have a chance over this crazy exam period, I suggest that you give Princess Mononoke a chance. It’s a film that everyone should see and gives you a whole new outlook on how fierce nature can be.