21 November 1987
Based on the manga classic by Keiko Takemiya, Kaze to Ki no Uta, Sanctus, (transliterated in English as "The Poem of the Wind and the Trees") is a ground-breaking movie for many different reasons. The manga was one of the first and most successful series of manga in the then-budding genre of what is known as "Shonen-ai" which is anime or manga that deals with love between young men, especially of the bishonen (a Japanese term literally meaning "beautiful youth) variety. Bishonen is an art-form geared for and directed toward young girls in Japan and is known for providing a non-traditional outlet for gender relations, as well as breaking down stereotypes surrounding effeminate male characters. It is the story of two young men, Serge Batouille and Gilbert Cocteau, which takes place in the late 19th Century at Laconblade Academy in Provence, France. The whole movie is a series of Serge's recollections of his life at the Academy, and those specifically centering on his stormy relationship with Gilbert. Serge is golden-hearted, and eternally giving. Gilbert, initially, seems intensely cruel and infinitely cold. Serge is paired up with Gilbert as roommates as an attempt to calm Gilbert's outrageously promiscuous behavior. Gilbert is known for, essentially, selling his body to other students in exchange for favors and term papers. Gilbert, however, deep down, is basically a very damaged individual having been treated as an object his entire life and never having been afforded any true sense of identity at the hands of his deeply antagonistic, sadistic uncle, Auguste Beau, who is a well-known and respected society figure who constantly manipulates and twists his young nephew to suit his own unfortunate fantasies. Due to this abuse, Gilbert is the prototypical victim: He sincerely believes that he and Auguste are in love. He is totally and completely enthralled with Auguste and bends to any and all of his twisted wishes and desires. Serge becomes captivated with Gilbert due to his own personal sense of justice and code of ethics - he believes that he can somehow "save" Gilbert from himself "before it is too late" - realizes that underneath Gilbert's carefully-crafted facade of cruelty is a human being desperately crying out to be loved and to be treated as a human being. Serge attempts to cultivate a friendship with Gilbert, in spite of the fact that he is ostracized by the other students and even threatened with violence by one of Gilbert's "lovers". However, Serge perseveres and the two boys become not only friends, but lovers, in the truest sense of the word. (As opposed to those whom Gilbert has used and manipulated in order to gain the things he wants and needs from life.) Kaze to Ki no Uta is an unconventional retelling of the classical tragic love story, and is full of true pathos, drama and heart-breaking tragedy. You sense that Serge's and Gilbert's love is doomed from the start - there just seem to be far too many insurmountable obstacles to overcome - but you hope that it will all turn out for the best throughout while knowing that it probably will not. A beautiful love story, a tragedy, a synecdoche for all intense love affairs, Kaze to Ki no Uta is an amazing examination of the human heart.
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