How well do you remember the things that happened to you in childhood? Do you really remember what it was like? I think we mostly forget, and so do not realise how much children understand what is going on around them, and we underestimate their inner lives.
I have just come accross this interview with Hayao Miyazaki in which he touches on what motivates him to make the kinds of movies he makes. He was a child in Japan during World War Two, and he recounts an air raid that happened when he was four years old. The most traumatic part of this experience is not, as one might expect, the running away, or the bombs falling, or the fires they caused. What he remembers most painfully is this: His family were fleeing the fire bombs. There were fires everywhere and they got to their car – one of those old fasioned cars that start with a crank. They got it started easily “since it was warmed well by the fire”. Little Miyazaki was hidden under a futon because they would have to drive through the fire. Before they could drive off, a neighbour, a woman holding a small girl came up to them and asked if she could leave with them. But his parents just drove off, leaving her running after them, calling for help.
This woman and her child survived. But Miyazaki says:
“…the fact that we ran away riding a rare gasoline truck while others were dying, deserting even those who were asking us to take them with us, those facts remained as a very strong memory even for a four years old child. That was very difficult to bear, when you think about what people say about living right or being considerate toward others. And as a small child, you want to believe that your parents are good people, the best in the world.”
He goes on to say that he creates movies in which a child would speak up, and tell the parents to stop and help others. He wants to believe that such a world may be. Think of “Laputa – Castle in the Sky” with its terrible war robots that have turned into gardeners. Or the war images in “Howls Moving Castle”.
How often do you think of the impact of your actions or words on a child as small as that? That a small child could be so aware of injustice?