Upon learning that I would be viewing the original 1954 film Gojira (or Godzilla) as a part of digital Asia, I immediately thought of my own understanding of Asian media and inherent “Asianness” and Asian representations in media. As an Australian our exposure to media other than our own is often Westernised and Americanised. Some of my own examples of this from my youth include Saturday morning Pokémon viewing with corn flakes cereal and the early 90’s series of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (pitctured below) and its representation of an oriental “Asianness”. As a child, I wasn’t aware exactly who the ‘other’ was, only understanding through the show that they were different. While in my time I have seen these Asian tropes and stereotypical views quite a lot throughout popular culture and film, coming from a multicultural family, we were encouraged to consume alternative media especially as we got older, with SBS documentaries and foreign films on high rotation, subtitles included.
The dramatic cinematics and overall production of Gojira reminds me of many Chinese Kung Fu movies I’ve seen, namely one of my favourite Shaolin Soccer a dramatic comedy. While these effects are somewhat dated compared to today’s highly edited CGI versions, they add to the overall experience of the film, allowing a modern audience to imagine themselves as the original 1954 audience and imagining the different experience in viewing it then. These dramatized features in Gojira are synonymous with the Japanese film genre Kaiju, that typically feature a monster character inflicting havoc on humankind. Kaiju translates to strange beast, a fantasy creature often taking the role of force of nature. Here we can see the intentional parallels between Godzilla terrorising Japan and the reality in Japan of the devastation and nuclear destruction that is Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We see in the movie that Godzilla is a literal product of nuclear testing, in 1954, and still today, this metaphor places Gojira into the genre of horror. Godzilla is a representation of the consequences of human interference with the environment. This is still relevant today with the growing concern of global warming as a product of human impacts.
Another dramatic aspect of Gojira that I liked was the love triangle at the centre of the film. For me, it’s comparable to old romantic black and white movie favourites of mine, like the classic Sabrina, with Audrey Hepburn. She too was caught in a bit of a love triangle. Both films use music to fuel the drama and create emotions in the viewer. In the case of Gojira, sometimes it is the lack of sound that creates this. I found the long silences in between scenes and speaking rather strange in comparison to films that I’m used to, though it kept me watching as just by listening I couldn’t always understand what was happening on-screen.
Having only ever seen pop culture references to Godzilla and the 2014 Hollywood version, it was interesting to the original 1954 film. I enjoyed it, though in general it’s not something I would typically watch, I can appreciate the early cinematic techniques and the moral to the story.