The final entry on the What Else to Watch list in DK Canada’s The Movie Book following my screening of Spirited Away is another brilliant Miyazaki film, Howl’s Moving Castle.
This was my first time watching this one, and I can now admit to rating this one as high as I do Spirited Away. It’s a tale of war, romance, magic, friendship, politics, betrayal… there’s a lot going on in this film, and it all revolves around a young woman Sophie, who is cursed by the Witch of the Waste.
This curse transforms her into an old woman, and in seeking to break that curse she comes across a castle that walks on it’s own, is imbued with all manner of magic, and serves as home to Howl, a brilliant magician who is unsure of himself. Something that is also reflected in Sophie.
With an odd collection of friends and allies, including a scarecrow on a stick, a flame demon, and a young boy who is also working on his magic, the group find themselves stuck in a war, that may tear them all apart.
Sophie begins to fall in love with Howl, and the two see not only something of themselves in the other, but also their true selves.
I love the fact that we are thrown into this magical, steampunkish world without any references, or explanations and we learn through the story, we see the way things are affecting their world, the war, the magic, who characters are and how they interact.
Miyazaki proves once again to be masterful in his creation of the realm we are plunged into. All of the designs are incredible, the landscapes, cityscapes, and the almost living being look of the walking castle.
There is no rush to the story, it takes its time introducing us to the characters, letting us enjoy their development, their moments, their interactions. But when the action beats hit (though few and far between) the film kicks into high gear.
I love the way Miyazaki tells his stories, and the reality of the worlds he creates, everything just seems to be, and can be accepted for what they are.
Studio Ghibli has a fantastic library of films, each of them beautifully crafted, and whether the stories captivate (and not all of them have wowed me) they all look fantastic. The designs and attention to detail evoke a master at work, and that alone makes all of them worth the watch.
And of course, a film like this proves, once again, that animation isn’t just for kids. There’s a powerful story at work in all of these films, and consequently they can entertain both young and old.
Don’t believe me? Pick up a copy of DK Books’ The Movie Book and find a new classic to watch tonight.