Monday, 8 December 2008

Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle is a 2005 Studio Ghibli film, based on a Diana Wynne Jones children's book (that I haven't read). Howl is a wizard who encounters our heroine Sophie. Everyone knows that wizards steal the hearts from beautiful girls[1], but this isn't the danger she finds herself in; instead the Witch of the Waste ages her from 16 to 90 years old[2], and tops off the curse by making her unable to tell anyone about it. Sophie leaves town and heads into the waste to look for a wizard to help her and comes across Howl's Moving Castle (Trailer has some good shots of the castle)

Sophie under the transparent alias "Grandma Sophie" becomes the castle's housekeeper, and meets up with an enchanted scarecrow, Howl's apprentice and Calcifer, a fire demon who powers the castle. Unable to tell anyone about her curse, she ends up having to help Howl when a war breaks out and he's drafted under two of his aliases.

It's a great cartoon, and I find it visually fascinating as it shows a fantasy-European 19th century kingdom seen through the eyes of Japanese animators. Best of all, although so brief and backgrounded that you can almost miss it, is that at the end it's revealed that the story we thought we were watching might actually be a subplot of another, bigger story that we thought was a subplot; since we've just seen a magical and entertaining film this other story is even better in my imagination.

The American cast for the English version are very good. Highly recommended.

[1] This turns out to have a grain of literal truth, as well as the obvious metaphorical truth
[2] This is Sophie, a teenager's, estimate; I'd say more like a fit 70 years old. From the interview on the disc with Diana Wynne Jones it seems this was based on something that happened to her in her 40s - from memory she hurt her back and suddenly had to walk everywhere slowly, painfully and with a cane, as though she'd suddenly become 90.

No comments:

Post a Comment