Poetry in Makoto Shinkai’s movies

It was raining. The garden where lilacs are in full bloom resonated with the sound of falling rain drops. There she was, under the resting area built of black stones, sleeping. He looked at her, went there and sat beside her. She opened her eyes and smiled at him.

This was a scene from the movie Garden of Words made by Makoto Shinkai. It sounds like a boy-meets-girl-they-fall-in-love type romance story right?

Well it is a romance story alright but not all it seems on the surface. The story that follows the life of the two people who meet in the garden is much more complex . It explores the web of emotions that we think we no longer possess. Love and romance had always been the centre of his movies. But they are never the straight-out happy kind. They are so painful and lonely that it makes his movies rather poetic. It makes your heart yearn just like Pablo Neruda’s poem ‘I can write the saddest lines tonight’.  That was the quality that drew me to Shinkai’s movies.

Shinkai dons many roles which includes that of director, writer, cinematographer and manga artist. I have only seen three movies, when I had no idea about who he was. I was impressed each and every time not just with the romance but an unique story line that nails the emotions just right without going overboard. It moved me on some level. 

The first movie of his I saw was 5 Centimetres per second. It was an one hour anime, which was a combination of three short stories. One of the stories was about two teenagers who fall in love during their middle school days. The girl had to transfer and the lovers separate. In the 30 minutes the movie captures the feelings both of them goes through till their adulthood, somewhere in their late twenties. You will see that while the girl moved on, the guy’s emotions were frozen.  It clearly portrays pain of losing your love and an eternal search in finding that one person, obsession, losing out the present as you hold on to the past and finally letting it go as you see her for that fleeting moment. Each of the emotions were so well captured that I could not help but reminisce about my past, of those fleeting moments and unrequited love. Even now when I’m penning this story down, I cannot help but remember those moments in the movie that inspired me to write.

5 Centimeters per second poster. The teenage lovers who see each other for a fleeting moment

The next one was Garden of Words. It again an hour movie, where the protagonists are an high school boy and Japanese literature teacher in his school. They meet by chance in the garden under unique circumstances and fall in love, the one which has no future. Both of them knew it. Yet they cannot help share the pain and fall in love. As the time forces them to go separate ways, they grow up. They move on. Tragic though the story might be, it speaks volumes about how impressionable some encounters are in our life. They do not last long but make so deep an impression that it changes your life. These encounters might not be necessarily romantic yet unforgettable. Shinkai has captured these emotions so perfectly.

Garden of Words poster. The high school boy and teacher get to know each other in the garden.

The last one was Kimi no na wa or Your name. I’m at a loss of words as to how to even describe what this movie did to me. I saw this movie on the way back from Copenhagen and I fell in love with it. Two teenagers, swap bodies when they sleep, live each other’s life and eventually fall in love without even meeting each other. If only I can explain them in such simple terms. The story has a circular timeline where it moves back and forth narrating from the perspective of both girl and boy until they were able to meet in person some 15 years later. The wait and longing for the love and warmth both of them felt was palpable that it makes the viewers willing them to reunite, which they do. 

Taki and Mitsuha from Kimi no na wa. Source: IndieWire

Beneath the teenage love, romance and longing, what makes these stand apart is Shinkai’s ability to weave a story that resonate with you and me. Yes love has always been the main focus, but the movies were not just about the girl and boy falling in love. They were about the journey that largely reflects the life that revolves around you and me.  His movies portrays extraordinary emotions and how they drive us in every day life. 

They make you think how beautiful the life and people around you are. There are hardly any movies that portray the extraordinary elements of every day life. For me Shinkai’s movies were the ones that make me want to look around and smile and say ‘Life is beautiful’ indeed. 


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