Film-making only brings suffering – A Kingdom of Dreams and Madness Review

The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness Poster

It seriously looks like this is the end for Studio Ghibli…

The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness is a documentary about Hayao Miyazaki and the production of what will most likely be his final movie for Studio Ghibli.

The Good

  • A peek behind the curtain at the Studio Ghibli
  • A rare glimpse into the creative life of Hayao Miyazaki
  • You learn about the various people at Studio Ghibli and how their relationships affected the movies they made
  • Will offer a lot to fans of Studio Ghibli or anyone who works in the animation industry

The OK

  • Very slow pace
  • Politely distant
  • Not edited to portray a narrative throughout the film, and meanders around as a result
  • Really only a glimpse into the creative life of Miyazaki, despite the documentaries two hour run time

The Bad

  • Will most likely not have enough appeal for non-artistic audiences due to its slow pace
  • As much as they talk about how healthy Miyazaki is, the man smokes like a chimney (as do a couple of the other older members of staff)
  • Wasted narrative opportunity with Goro Miyazaki who seemed to be working at Ghibli purely because of the Miyazaki legacy

Final Opinion

You can tell that this is a Japanese documentary. How? It’s very polite, possibly to a fault. In the Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, we never really get close to anyone at Ghibli. We do get to learn a fair amount about Miyazaki, but in typical Japanese fashion, we learn more about his philosophies and views on the business in general. We never get to sit down and hear the man discuss his work in-depth.

This politeness also seems to come across in the style of the documentary. It feels like we are someone doing work experience, at Studio Ghibli. We are allowed to watch, but we never feel like we are allowed to engage. This feeling comes across because the director pretty much just follows Miyazaki around. In a way, it feels like Miyazaki, or the staff at Ghibli, are the ones directing the documentary, since they reveal what they want to, and the director makes no moves to dig any deeper than what Studio Ghibli will allow.

The film also has a lot of filler moments and scenes, which, while they can be nice, don’t really offer all that much to the audience. This results in a two hour run time, which I felt could be trimmed down to probably an hour forty-five, maybe even an hour thirty.

Overall, The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness is worth watching for people who are passionate about either animation, or Studio Ghibli, as it has a lot on offer these two groups. However, if you are not in either of these camps, the film’s slow and meandering pace will probably lose you by the one hour mark.




2 thoughts on “Film-making only brings suffering – A Kingdom of Dreams and Madness Review

  1. I watched this doccie after reading your review and I agree with what you said. But I was still surprised by how honest and direct Miyazaki-san and some of the other animations’ comments were. Just a small glimmer into Japan’s animation industry, but still informative.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do agree that some of the comments even made me go “Woah, did they just say that?”, but I would have liked if the documentary maker explored some of them a bit more. It was very rare for the film-maker to poke and probe and see if they could get more information out of people.

      Still a very worthwhile film for people with an interest in the industry.


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