This week I am concluding my spotlight on the films of Hayao Miyazaki. The last of his wonderful films I am spotlighting is Howl’s Moving Castle. It’s a very unique fantasy film. I think it’s actually one of the director’s most underappreciated works.
In the film,
A young girl named Sophie Hatter (Emily Mortimer) is cursed by the Witch of the Waste (Lauren Bacall), and turns into an old hag. Ashamed of how she looks, she flees into the hills where a moving castle roams. It is said to belong to the young and handsome wizard How (Christian Bale)l, who has a rather notorious reputation. Inside the castle, Sophie befriends the fire demon named Calcifer, who promises to help her become young again. There’s a catch,however.Sophie must help Calcifer to be free of Howl, and Calcifer cannot tell her how. Sophie agrees to stay and try to figure out about the contract through other ways. Still, Howl can see that Sophie is under a spell like Calcifer can, and he falls in love with her for who she is and not for what she looks like. Sophie manages to bring life to the moving castle, and she helps Howl to face his former tutor, Madam Suliman (Blythe Danner).–Internet Movie Database
The story has a lot of interesting plot twists. The English voice over work is excellent,especially from Lauren Bacall and Christian Bale. Howl’s Moving Castle is a quirky but thoroughly involving fantasy. It brings a unique view of wizards and magic to the screen. Oh,and there’s a war going on just off in the distance from where the castle roams. So there’s mysticism and war intrigue. It’s an interesting blend of plot points to be sure.
But lets talk about the real star of the film: the moving castle of the title. As with the bathhouse in Spirited Away,this is a completely original world that is a wonder to behold on the screen. It gave me the same sense of wonder as Oz and Hogwarts. Another film it made me think of was Labyrinth,the film that made David Bowie a star. But back to the castle. Not only does the castle have endless rooms,it can shape shift,doors can open where they need to…it has everything! The best description of the castle has to go to Roger Ebert. In his review he writes,
Almost the first sight we see in “Howl’s Moving Castle” is the castle itself, which looks as if it were hammered together in shop class by wizards inspired by the lumbering, elephantine war machines in “The Empire Strikes Back.” The castle is an amazing visual invention, a vast collection of turrets and annexes, protuberances and afterthoughts, which makes its way across the landscape like a turtle in search of a rumble.
Howl’s Moving Castle is visually striking,as are all of Miyazaki’s films. I really enjoyed getting lost in the world created on the screen. The film is based on a book of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones. It’s on my to-read list, as I always like to see how books and movies compare. This is a charming film that I want art prints of to hang in my office. It’s worth checking out.
That does it for Miyazaki month. Join me in May when my spotlight will be on journalism movies.