21 May 2014

Background

First written as a novel in 1986 by Diana Wynne Jones, Hayao Miyazaki’s portrayal of Howl’s Moving Castle on the big screen has to go down as one of the most accomplished animated films ever created.

Produced by Toshio Suzuki it is packed full of; anti-war themes, witches, wizards and talking fires, Miyazaki has excelled himself once again, but would you expect anything less? Distributed throughout North America by Pixar’s Peter Docter and Walt Disney Pictures, Howl’s Moving Castle won Best Animated Film at both the San Diego and New York Critics Awards, for me, rightly so.

My love for this film does not stop at the brilliance of the plot twists, the magnificent animation techniques, the balance between hand drawn and digitally created storyboards, it goes deeper into the complex forest of Miyazaki’s creative flair. The transformation of the human psyche we experience through the character of Sophie from a young lady, into an old woman after a curse is put on her by the Witch of the Waste, provides a basis for the rest of the story to work off.

The mysterious character voiced by Christian Bale, Howl provides Miyazaki and his team the opportunity to illustrate monumental scenarios from; great battles in the sky to a sulky, narcissistically driven demon with wings. Billy Crystal as Calcifer could not be a better fit, his voice perfect for the doubting tone in which every situation is questioned.

Howl’s Moving Castle provides the viewer with idyllic and peaceful landscapes pleasant to the eye, but also manages to contrast this with the war over the missing Prince. This theme of the fragility of the earth is a recurring one of which Miyazaki clearly concerns himself with as it appears in many other Ghibli productions.

Although the late great Roger Ebert did not seem to recognise the brilliance of this film, describing it in the Chicago Sun Times as one of Ghibli’s weakest films, it remains top of the pile for me through its sheer elegance and aesthetic grace.

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Howl's Moving Castle screens as part of the We <3 Miyazaki Season on Saturday 24 May at 3pm. Tickets are available now from the Box Office, online and by phone on 0871 902 5737.