I told Miyazaki I love the “gratuitous motion” in his films; instead of every movement being dictated by the story, sometimes people will just sit for a moment, or they will sigh, or look in a running stream, or do something extra, not to advance the story but only to give the sense of time and place and who they are.

“We have a word for that in Japanese,” he said. “It’s called ma. Emptiness. It’s there intentionally.”

Is that like the “pillow words” that separate phrases in Japanese poetry?

“I don’t think it’s like the pillow word.” He clapped his hands three or four times. “The time in between my clapping is ma. If you just have non-stop action with no breathing space at all, it’s just busyness, But if you take a moment, then the tension building in the film can grow into a wider dimension. If you just have constant tension at 80 degrees all the time you just get numb.”

~ Roger Ebert, from “Hayao Miyazaki Interview,” (September 12, 2002)

Credits: Quote – Improve is Easy. Photo by Bruno via Mennyfox55.


  1. The sound of the spaces in between

    Liked by 1 person

  2. oh, i love ‘ma. ‘ it is the way real life happens, full of moments in between –

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Constant pressure? Numb?….I get it.
    I’ll have a double order of ma, please.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s what’s wrong with us…we don’t have enough “ma”. We’re all just…pretty numb. Well, except for the ma moments when I spend a bit of time just thinking about what you have posted. Thank you for the ma, David. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Ma-velous ❣

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Very interesting concept.Just beware if the moments get too long (like in the case of a writer…It’s called writer’s block). Okay, sorry. I’m just kidding.

    Liked by 1 person

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