Autoethnography; At first it’s a difficult concept to approach. Having to all at once experience and take note of ourselves in a new culture while also examining how and why we react to it in the way we do sounds complex, but it often offers a new insight as an outsider viewing something new. Once you’ve got your head around the idea that “autoethnography is both process and product”, as described by Ellis et al., the value of this sort of study begins to shine through. Our personal experience narrating a culture offers both insight into ourselves and epiphanies on how we make sense of digital Asia.
Through that lens, I got to watch the 1954 Japanese film Gojira. While I’ve seen Godzilla in countless other pieces of media, from American re-imaginings to games and more recent Japanese films, I’d never sat down and enjoyed the original. While I found aspects of the style a little jarring and it wasn’t the most watchable movie I’d ever seen, I quite enjoyed my experience with the film. There was a lot in it you could easily trace through to modern Kaiju and action movie tropes and themes that extended well beyond the climate of Japan in the 1950’s.
Here’s some of my observations from during the viewing:
- Film spends a lot of time showing political procedures and everyday life
- Regular contrast of tradition and technological advancements, especially early on (fishing village, traditional dances vs military warships)
- Map placed sideways – discussion suggested this was to re-identify Japan after western mapping
- Constant WW2/Nuclear weapon imagery and parallels
- Unwavering attempts to kill Gojira even after realising conventional bullets don’t do much other than make him mad
- Odd mix of music – very pro-navy/military sounding audio whenever forces deployed
- Some overcomplex plot-points and random love triangle to add to this
- Slow movie overall but the big moments were enough to keep me engaged
As far as Japanese movies go, I found Gojira to be quite approachable by the end, especially in comparison to other live action and anime films I’ve seen. Maybe it’s the fact we’ve been exposed to the Kaiju in quite an Americanised way, or even just because of how universal a lot of the themes of the movie have come to be in modern day cinema. Either way, there’s a lot to unpack from quite the quite entertaining, if not a tad strange, seminal Japanese Kaiju film.