Film : Sci-fi at MV Film Society
Fans of "Spirited Away," the acclaimed 2001 animated fantasy by Hayao Miyazaki, should not miss the Island screening of "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind." Scheduled for Tuesday, July 22, at the Tabernacle, the movie is jointly presented by the Martha's Vineyard Film Society and the Martha's Vineyard Camp Meeting Association. Representatives from local environmental groups will attend, providing information on how to help our planet stay green.
"Nausicaa," a sci-fi epic, is just as imaginative and beautifully made as "Spirited Away." Although it was originally released in the U.S. in 1985, Walt Disney didn't make a DVD version of "Nausicaa" available until 2004.
The film tells the story of a post-apocalyptic world close to death from pollution from toxic plants and giant insects. Its heroine, Princess Nausicaa, with special powers that give her an affinity for the natural world, lives in one of the last outposts of civilization, where breezes help purify the noxious air.
In Japan, both children and adults read comic books, on which the film version is based, and the film version is far from kids-only fare.
The animation is a feast for the eyes and the story as mythically rich as "The Lord of the Rings." Mixing sci-fi tech like Nausicaa's personal glider with an agrarian world of medieval castles and windmills, director Miyazaki uses his distinctive animation style to make an intriguing take on how out of whack humans and the natural world have become.
The film tells of the aftermath of war that rendered the planet close to uninhabitable, with rampant environmental deterioration. Hoping to discover how a balance between nature and humans can be re-established, Princess Nausicaa investigates the Wasteland, where plants release deadly poisonous spores and giant insects wreak havoc. During the heroic rescue of a compatriot, she demonstrates her ability to communicate with insects and other creatures.
After a space vehicle carrying an embryonic monster crash-lands, the idyllic kingdom is invaded by the war-like Talmekians, who want all remaining kingdoms to unite against the toxic jungle. Only Princess Nausicaa appreciates the need to find a way to live in harmony with the jungle.
Once the Talmekians arrive, a peaceful people and their princess are goaded into war, and the film shifts focus to the slam-bang military maneuvers and explosions of American action films. Despite the battles, Nausicaa and her green message dominate. Like so many of the best animated features, "Nausicaa" soars highest when it concentrates on exploring its make-believe world, where reality can bend and transform itself in miraculous ways.
Entering its second week at the Tabernacle, the Martha's Vineyard Film Society's summer series runs weekly through August 19. On July 29, two films about birds will be shown. "Rare Bird" is a true story about a bird thought extinct, and it is paired with "Bird Quest," a short by Vern Laux and Bob Shriber. Mr. Laux, the well-known Island birding expert, will answer questions after the screenings.
With music by Bradford Reed on the pencilina (a guitar-like instrument he invented) and Jane Scarpantoni playing the cello, the 1916 silent version of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" will be screened August 5. On August 12, the series features "What Would Jesus Buy?" a mock-documentary about the commercialization of Christmas.
The final screening in the series is "CHOPS," on August 19. This film looks at the Essentially Ellington Festival, where high school jazz bands compete.
The Martha's Vineyard Film Society is also collaborating with Island organizations to bring two other film events to the Vineyard. On July 17, "Field of Dreams" will be shown outdoors at the high school's center field as part of an event by Vineyard Baseball, Inc. to raise funds for new bleachers and field maintenance.
On July 26, an excerpt from filmmaker Sara Nesson's documentary, "Iraq Paper Scissors," will be shown as part of "Speak Truth to Power" at the Grange Hall to raise the money necessary to complete the film.
All films playing at the Tabernacle, located at the Oak Bluffs Camp Meeting Association, start at 8 pm. General admission costs $8 and seating begins 45 minutes before show time. Admission for society members and children under 12 is $5.
Brooks Robards reviews art, film, theater and books for The Times.