Last Thursday must have been one of the more interesting opening tutorials I’ve experienced. It was nostalgic. I can vividly remember seeing Hollywood productions of the same black and white era being played around midday every weekend. Watching a monster film instead of the usual “Hi, I’m blah-blah-blah and I like blah-blah-blah” was definitely a nice change. While I knew about the Kaiju genre of Japanese films, I had never properly sat down to watch an original.
From the outside, you could be forgiven for thinking that ‘Gojira’ is a movie without much substance. People awaken monster, monster destroys stuff, people come together to destroy monster. I had never given these films much thought either. Perhaps that’s because so many of the Kaiju-esque films that Hollywood produces follow this same trope without much in the way of themes or worthwhile story.
But ‘Gojira’ needs to be viewed differently; understanding its context is important. With ‘Gorjia’ releasing in 1954, it’s hard not to realise just how politically and culturally important the film is for Japan. Godzilla represents nuclear holocaust, with his attacks being a reflection on the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II.
Reflecting on my own context and media consumption experience, it has always been the “communists” or in more recent times those from Middle Eastern origins who have been portrayed as the antagonists in films we see in the west. It must also be said that they are far less subtly villainised on the that the US was in ‘Gojira’.
My consumption of Japanese media is usually limited to food or fashion, so being able to view the important cultural roots of Japanese cinema was excellent.
‘Gorjia’ has really given birth to global genre, and one of the more interesting offshoots is that of North Korea’s 1985 film ‘Pulgasari’. Why is it interesting? Well that’s because Kim Jong-il had the man hailed as “South Korea’s Spielberg” kidnapped in 1978 to help make North Korea a film making powerhouse. Sufficed to say the plan didn’t work very well, but it made for a cult hit in the western world.