27 August 2013

Howl's Moving Castle was the first Studio Ghibli film I ever saw and it blew me away. I had never seen anything like it before; I have watched animation since I can remember but only in the form of Disney and Pixar films, but nothing like this.

The film is a love story, between 18-year-old hat maker, Sophie and the infamous wizard Howl. Although it is not that simple, after an unfortunate meeting with the feared Witch of the Waste Sophie is left cursed, her body transformed into an old woman's. She leaves her home, no longer being able to remain there in her new form, ending up in a fantastical moving castle, where she meets Calcifer, a fire demon who can see the curse's hold over Sophie. They make a deal, she must help to free Calcifer from his contract with Howl, and once free he will break the spell allowing her to return to her 18 year old body. There are so many elements of Howl’s Moving Castle that I love, making it my favourite Ghibli film by far and one of my favourite movies ever. There is something in the characters, they all have such a sense of themselves, Sophie has such a reserve of strength that even getting turned into an old woman doesn’t slow her down. Her iron nerve is something that can be really admired, it reminds us that sometimes the best thing to do is dust yourself off and carry on!

Howl is my favourite character by far, despite the fact that he is sometimes cruel and constantly vain, there is such a heart to the wizard famed for not having a heart. For me, he represents the point between being young and getting older. Where sometimes the things you say will hurt others and your actions are careless and reckless, but in the end the good shines through and what needs to be done is done and all faith is restored. As we move along the narrative we see Howl in different ways, the Howl who cares for Sophie, for Calcifer and Markal, he is kind to them and makes sure he keeps them safe, We see the vain Howl who spirals into a depression just due to the colour of his hair and the brave Howl who eventually stands up to do what is necessary and fights for what’s right.

There’s a strong theme that runs through Howl's Moving Castle of friendship and in a sense family. Howl and Markal accept Sophie into their lives without much question and they both strive to protect her and support her, in return Sophie cleans and cooks for the boys, looking after Markal as if he were a son or a little brother. Calcifer who was at first so resistant to allow her into their home, warms to her soon enough and begins to rely on her and need her the same as the others. Sophie meets Turnip head early on in her journey, he is responsible for leading her to the moving castle in the first place, he is a Prince cursed to live as a scare crow, and looks after Sophie, bringing her a shawl and a walking stick as well helping with things like the washing. After a while watching Howls Moving Castle goes from being fantastical and unbelievable story about a war between humans and magic to being a film about a group of people who have been thrown together in the need to survive and stay true to one another and themselves.

Howl's Moving Castle is a film that I find myself able to watch any time and in any place, it’s a visually stunning piece of work that captivates me every time. With each watch I notice something different, little twists in the narrative and signifiers that I had not seen to begin with, all these elements create one wonderful and truly spell binding piece of film, that I will continue to love for years to come. 

The Picturehouse at FACT Studio Ghibli season concludes this weekend with Howl's Moving Castle at 3.30pm on Saturday. Tickets are available now from the Box Office, by phone on 0871 902 5737 and online.