Howl’s Moving Castle
Directed and Story by Hayao Miyazaki
Production by Studio Ghibli
I have been behind on updating for the whole Year of Animation thing, not because I don’t have movies or series to talk about, but because I have so many that I jump from one review to the next without having any of them finished. Hopefully, by the time I upload this, I will have a couple more coming. Now, let us move on to discussing this very loose adaptation of Diana Wynne Jones’ book of the same name.
This film follows Sophie, a young hatter who is cursed by a witch to being a ninety-year old woman. She is not about to take that in stride, so she goes in search for a cure, and comes across a wizard named Howl and his moving castle, an apprentice named Markl, and a fire-demon named Calcifer. While she is on her search, her country is at war with a neighbouring country, and Howl is called upon to aid, but things tend to mingle and confuse. It is from then on we are caught in a story of magic love, mysticism, and allegory.
At the beginning of the review I said that this film is based off of a book, but it is clear that it is loosely adapted, as it is first and foremost, a Miyazaki movie. Everything from the dialogue, to the music, to the imagery and art, is very much a Studio Ghibli project. Much like his works, it carries heart, it plays with our emotions, while making us question our beliefs. In this aspect, it is quite similar to Princess Mononoke, while also demonstrating the lightness and comedy of his other works. What I am saying is: This is a brilliant work! Every scene is made with care and detail, is accompanied by fantastic dialogue or music, and adds something we need to know, or that increases our appreciation for the characters.
Much like Miyazaki’s previous and subsequent works, his animation is filled with parable and symbolism, the main one in this story being, his much desired pacifism. During the story, the countries at war, and the people that are a part of it, are shown to be more complex than a simple desire to rule the other. Characters are neither good nor bad, but rather in a middle limbo, with only one character being sadistic enough to want to continue with such conflict, while everyone else is constantly jumping between continuing or ending the rivalry. Hence we are given two main points, people with a non-clear struggle with war, and people with an arbitrary need to create/continue war for their own benefit.
One of my favourite of his works, but mostly all he does I adore, so don’t take my opinion as sole truth. Plus, it demonstrates something often ignored, that once we are old, it does not mean our end, but simply a new way to see the world, it might even make us more compassionate. It shows Sophie developing from someone who sees her age as a curse, to understanding her purpose and life while under the curse. It is nice to see old age represented as something more than useless people that constantly depend on the young to enjoy life.