Re-examining Gojira (1954)

Re-examining my first post for DICG330 ‘Autoethnography and Gojira (1954)’, I have developed deeper concepts and knowledge surrounding this subject, including autoethnographic research. To recap:

“autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze personal experience in order to understand cultural experience” (Ellis 2011).

In my first post, I expressed my thoughts and experience of the film, Gojira (1954), which is “viewed as a thinly veiled critique of the incendiary and atomic bombings of Japan during World War II.” One of the main assumptions that I researched in relation to Ishiro Honda’s 1954 film was the metaphorical concept of nuclear warfare. Buchman (2015) states that, “the film might be a monster movie at first look, but beneath the surface the film is a profound political statement against the use of nuclear weapons in warfare.” This comes as World War II had ended recently before the release of Gojira, and therefore scenes such as Godzilla’s rampage are symbolic representations of the atomic bombings as Godzilla portrays all the characteristics of a nuclear weapon. This can be depicted at the start of the movie as the prehistoric dinosaur Godzilla arises from the depths of the ocean after being awaken by underwater hydrogen bomb testing, and the use of kaiju as a symbol for the nuclear holocaust suffered by Japan. The film producer Tomoyuki Tanaka stated that “mankind had created the bomb, and now nature was going to take revenge on mankind.”

Secondly, when researching the use of miniature sets that were used to creatively film highly detailed objects (that I couldn’t believe they ended up been mostly destroyed), I learnt that within Gojira the combination of miniature sets and costumed actors, gave birth to a whole new genre known as tokusatsu (“special filming”). Ryūsuke (2014) discusses how the distinctive style that was pioneered by Tsuburaya Eiji went on to become highly influential in Japan and overseas, leading to many memorable creations including the TV show Ultraman. Meanwhile, the storyline of destruction in Gojira is similar to many modern-day monster films, it is rare to see them filmed using the technique of miniatures and other objects that bring fantasy world to life, as they decline due to increase of computer graphics.

Another element of the film that stood out to me from my cultural experience was the portrayal of emotion appearing very dramatic and displays of affection not only being alluded to, but unlike anything you’d expect to see in modern film. James Orr (2001) states that, ‘in postwar Japanese discourse on peace, mothers and wives were portrayed as the virtuous women whose plight symbolized the nation’s nuclear victimhood” illustrating how through their good and admirable qualities their emotional commitment to families wellbeing’s stood before their lucid commitment to the welfare of the community.

Following my research I now understand the influence that world events can have on the film industry, and in particular the influence of World War II on Gojira. It has become clear to me that each individuals personal past and culture produces the way we encounter different experiences of the same film. It is evident that Gojira plays an important part in Japanese history conveying nostalgia, special effects and emotion.

The Victim As Hero: Ideologies of Peace and National Identity in Postwar Japan – James Joseph Orr.
A Brief History of Godzilla, Our Walking Nuclear Nightmare- Brian Merchant
Autoethnography: An Overview – Ellis, Adams & Bochner
Japan: The Second Golden Age – Film Reference
Classic Films – Godzilla (1954) – Michelle Buchman

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