Sunday, June 17, 2018

Tohope And Change - Godzilla!


For the last several years after testing has wound down in the last days of the year I have shared the original movie Gojira with my students. I feel that's worthwhile to share with students a foreign-language black and white movie which promotes very serious themes. Those themes are a rejection of war and a sincere desire for peace built on the idea that such a dream is only supported by sacrifice of individual citizens.


That utopian dream is one held by the director of Godzilla -- Ishiro Honda. I was much impressed by the message of world peace which defines the original Godzilla movie and I am always moved, nearly to tears by the lovely "Prayer of Peace" which ultimately motivates the suffering Doctor Serikawka to destroy the monster, his work and ultimately himself in order that the world might survive one more day. Honda's movies all seem to have this sublime notion that mankind can indeed find another way forward, that people can work together to beat monsters or make the world better for everyone. Wishing to drench myself in the hope of Honda as opposed to the dreary news of the real world, I have been watching in order as many of his movies as I have in my possession and took steps to increase that hoard. Over the next few weeks I will be offering small reflections on many if not most of those delightful movies from Godzilla's Showa period.


The first is of course Godzilla. I grew up having only ever seen Godzilla - King of Monsters starring Raymond Burr. As entertaining as it is, the original has the power and majesty of Honda's message and presents that message of a world order which rejects the danger and damage of atomic weapons with a quiet potency. As I try to explain to my students, Godzilla is the atomic bomb, a fantasy recreation of arguably the greatest horror ever unleashed on mankind. He's an implacable force which demands death and destruction. Honda's direction along with Eji Tsubaraya's special effects and Akira Ifukube's masterful music blend to give the world a work of art which like Picasso's Guernica demands that the horror of war be confronted. The sacrifices required to end the threat of Godzilla in this cinematic debut are the absolute extreme. A man gives his life for others, so that the world will continue to be after he is gone and the movie ends with the prayer that world will learn and improve itself. It's a vain hope alas, but a hope worth having and one which Ishiro Honda continued to have in his many movies of the Showa era.

Escapism at its finest. More to come.

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