Howl's Moving Castle
Reviewed by 1. ab_zero 2. drakula
Japanese Title: Hauru no ugoku shiro
Director: Miyazaki Hayao
Writing Credits: Miyazaki Hayao (screenplay), Diana Wynne Jones (novel)
Voice credits: Baisho Chieko, Kimura Takuya, Miwa Akihiro
Genre: Animation fantasy
Year Released: 2004
Runtime: 119 min
1. Reviewed by ab_zero
This is truly a great film, just like most other Miyazaki's. Without going into the what's and why's of the film, as some might find the story confusing toward the latter half, the film is simply outstanding... the tender music, the beautiful graphics, the engaging plot and of course, the touching love story. And if that were not enough, there is also the incredible sound effects used for the moving castle.
I like this film especially for its in-depth characterization of Sophie. The usual Miyazaki elements are there with the scarecrow and Calcifer which add enormous fun and hilarity to the story. I'm also swept away by Miyazaki's love story. While Spirited Away's romance elements only develop in the later part of the film, Howl's Moving Castle's is the main theme that carries the plot.
(WARNING: spoilers ahead)
The ending makes an impact similar to that of the Matrix Revolution with Madam Suliman analogous to the Oracle/Architect. She is like a hand of fate, having the power to control everything but plays it like a game, nudging everything to come to an end so as to savor the dynamics, regardless of the outcome. "Ah... so it's a happy ending."
Also, it may seem strange that Sophie did not stay an old woman after the curse. Rather, she seems to possess an age-alteration ability as the film progresses. Well no, you don't really have to explain this to enjoy the film. But just to satisfy myself, I would like to think of it as a reflection of her inner self. As she has always been overly mature and not recognizing her own beauty, her age and appearance are like a reflection of her state of mind. When she is constantly reminded that she is supposed to be "old" or that she's not pretty, she would revert back to the grandma look. However, when she's at rest or attracted to Howl's charm like a little girl, she becomes young again. Her final state is that of a young face with white hair. She has reached a balance, an equilibrium, between youth and age, between physical maturity and emotional youth. All that remains is a memory of her youth, and her love for Howl. I do not know if this is the correct interpretation. Some of you might have a better take on this.
Regardless of how you interpret the ending, this is still a fantastic film. If you enjoy Miyazaki, miss this at your own loss, and please ignore the pronouncements of any aesthetically-challenged critics.
2. Reviewed by drakula
It is minutes away from 4:00 a.m., but I'm already experiencing my 4:00 a.m. moments. The moments when thoughts are bursting through my head, haunting me despite my desperate need for beauty sleep. The moments when I would lie in the dark, eyes wide open, where nothing exists and I am part of everything, and ideas run like locomotives through my head.
I saw Howl's Moving Castle for the 4th time today. Its music has accompanied my every waking (and dreaming) hour for the past few weeks. The film has the power to lift me from my overall lethargy, my overall weariness of everything. I was recently complaining to a friend that no relationship is ever true or pure anymore. Everything is clouded with judgment, with suspicion, with second-guessing, and I am so weary of things like that. Howl's Moving Castle provides an escape. An escape that is devoid of reality (because it is perfect) that is impossible to find in real life. Perhaps that's exactly what draws me to this movie. I can't stop from plunging myself into this perfect, unreal world, where everything is true in its unrealness, down to the every single detail in the landscape. Perhaps it is nothing short of taking LSD. The entire universe in this film is make-believe. Yet why do I feel such a strong attachment to it? Stronger than I can ever feel for my own real life.
It is a movie that relishes in its purity and is unafraid of being mere animation. The simple fact is that it is so true and pure that it does not make any attempt to imitate life. This purity, what Bresson has forever tried to achieve in his minimalist direction, is the film. The film is purity.
It is not to be confused with innocence. For the characters in the film are far from innocent. In fact, they probably lost their innocence ages ago, even before the movie began. Yet there is something so simple and pure in their characters, something that makes them transcendental, and amazingly unite everything, to form one whole picture, a picture of perfection.
Sophie's guardedness and jadedness shows on her aged appearance; Howl's simple desire to be free forever, and giving up everything in life for that wish, only to find later something true to hold on to, something greater to him than even freedom; The Witch of the Wastes inexplicable love for hearts; Mark's need to belong to a family; Calcifer's wanting to be praised. Their struggles, their desires, their motives are so simple, yet so true. They are able to come together to forge a family, to build a new home amid a world that is cruel and impure, and become stronger individually because of that. They create something so powerful that eventually it affects the entire world and infuses some purity into it. This moves me more than anything else. Their need for each other to be together, their need to feel like a family. It's a purity that is sadly gone from today's cynical age.
Yet all these are not just part of a fairytale-like story. Their love for each other is so real, they have to sacrifice for each other, because love, most of all, besides being able to care for each other, is sacrifice. Howl is willing to sacrifice freedom for Sophie, Sophie has to sacrifice part of her for Calcifer to be strong again, The Witch of the Waste has to sacrifice Howl's heart so as to put the family back together again. All these are real in life. And yet it is so much larger than life, in the fact that the characters are willing and selfless in this respect. It is only apt in this case that this would be an animation. Because no actor would be able to convey these emotions with such purity. Bresson, after all, has something short of Miyazaki, in that he has to deal with real actors, which inevitably anchors him in the realities of this world.
This is why I love Howl's Moving Castle so much. It is all the above, and so much more. I only wish I have all the words to express my love for this movie. The lack of words keeps tormenting me from sleep earlier. I sit in front of the computer typing furiously trying to capture its elusive spirit, but the words seem to come out all wrong. I have so much more to say, but find myself inarticulate. I am thankful to the people who have actually managed to capture this purity, this rush of emotion, all in a sustained 2-hour movie -- Diana Wynne Jones and Hayao Miyazaki. I have not read the original book, but I am eternally grateful to them for providing me with such a world that I can enter whenever I am feeling lost and disillusioned. I thank them for providing me with that purity, and the fact that truth is not all lost in this world of lies and deceit. Thanks for bringing me to such a wonderful place.