Ponyo / Gake no Ue no Ponyo
d. Hayao Miyazaki / Japan / 2008 / 100 mins
Viewed at: Screen 2 @ Cinema City (Norwich, UK)
Okay, I know Ponyo is a kids film (and the most child-orientated Ghibli film for some time) but I just can’t get past the symbolism. And rather than discuss the environmental themes that underpin the film, I thought it might be worth picking up on a rather odd interpretation that wafted into my skull about half an hour into my viewing.
Now, I think it’s fairly clear that the whole thing is pretty primordial, with specific references to birth, creation and reproduction which tie into the environmental themes; from the Cambrian sea creatures, to the Biblical references (Ponyo walking on water, the ‘great flood’, et. al.) and the young couple with breastfeeding infant whom Sesuko and Ponyo meet during the flood.
But if you’ll forgive my crudity, I’d like to suggest that ideas of birth and creation are also reflected in a more tangential, image-led manner, that may or may not have been the intention of Miyazaki and his Ghibli cohorts.
The first image that really struck me as relating quite explicitly to birth and creation, were the sperm and egg-like activities of Ponyo’s fellow sea creatures, after she had been recaptured by her ‘father’:
Which then got me thinking about a whole series of moments in the first half hour of the film, in which Ponyo has a rather ‘interesting’ way of interacting with humans:
It seems to me that – aside from mixing with the potions in her father’s underwater lair – before Ponyo can come into existence as a fully fledged little girl, there must first be a process of conception, hence the symbolism of both ejaculation (albeit rather crudely, if you look at it that way), and then fertilisation.
Then again, perhaps I have a tendency to read way too much into the visual connotations of the filmic image – or perhaps I just have a slightly warped mind – but I fail to see how such images could have passed through the entire chain of this collaborative effort without a single person picking up on their significance.
Of course, that’s assuming that it isn’t all intentional.