ゴジラ – Exploring Japan Through Film

I am a little behind the pack on this one, but here it is nonetheless – my reaction to watching the classic Japanese film Godzilla in class, whilst live-tweeting the experience.  The tricky thing about writing last is that all the most profound and insightful discoveries have already been stated by others, so I’ll be using my tweets to guide my response.

Godzilla, or ゴジラ as it is written in Japan, is one of the most iconic 海珠 (kaiju, or monster) films of all time.  I’ll admit that despite this, I’ve never seen the original, only the Hollywood remake featuring Bryan Cranston.  I have also never watched a black and white film outside of high school English studies – damn you, To Kill A Mockingbird!

I don’t know why I’m so surprised, to be completely honest.  As a white, atheist Australian woman with no direct links to anything across the sea, any culture I experience is new and foreign to me.  Perhaps that’s why I am so drawn to the Japanese culture, history and lifestyle – it is incredible to experience as an outsider.

I am very open to the idea of being absorbed in Japanese culture as it gives me a window of insight into the cultural nuances of Japan.  I love the works of Studio Ghibli, and I adored the J-drama series 花ざかりの君たちへ (Hanazakari no kimitachi e) when it was first shown to me by my Japanese teacher.  I tried to draw comparisons between the J-drama and Godzilla at first, before realising that they are completely different insights – it’s like trying to compare The Notebook to Transformers.

My early thoughts when watching Godzilla commented on the plot and acting, which I likened to Home and Away in its dramatics.  However, it wasn’t long before I began to notice the subtle details, such as the choice to keep non-diegetic movie scarce, and the number of women in the film.

As the film progressed, I found myself less distracted by the yelling-acting and the dated special effects, and began to appreciate the film’s nuances.  One scene in particular, with a mother comforting her two children in the moments before death that they would see their father in heaven soon, made me tear up more than it had a right to.  I didn’t realise how invested I was in the film until this point.

Once I appreciated the film and its story beyond its goofy effects, I discovered the underlying symbolism of Godzilla as the aftereffect of the nuclear bomb’s dropping on Hiroshima.  Once I understood this (around the same time as the rest of the class), the film takes on a whole new layer and depth of meaning.

I only shared one quote during my live-tweeting session, and it was the following:   “If we keep doing nuclear testing, it’s possible another Godzilla will appear, somewhere in the world”.  It’s a devastating moment in the film, where the film is trying to drive home their anti-nuclear and anti-war message.  To me, it sounds like a plea, the film asking the audience to understand the crushing realities of war.  I felt a little foolish for joking around at the beginning when the reality is that the film, for its time, must have been revolutionary.

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