It’s about time we got to Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki. And here we have it. The utterly sublime Howl’s Moving Castle.
8.2 stars on IMDb and released in 2004, Howl’s Moving Castle clocks in at #156 in the Top 250 movies. Nominated for Best Animated Feature, it lost out to Aardman’s Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit – a worthy enough film, but for my money, Howl should have taken it.
Directed by the master himself, Hayao Miyazaki, he also wrote the script (based on the original novel by Diana Wynne Jones). The novel and the film are two different beasts though, and both wonderful in their own right. If you’ve seen (or read) one and not read (or seen) the other, I must insist that you read or see the one you haven’t. Chop chop.
As you’d expect from a Studio Ghibli film, the animation is simply gorgeous. It’s a proper feast for the eyes and offers something new on each rewatch.
The story centres around a young girl, Sophie who is cursed into an old body by the Witch of the Waste. Sophie sets off to find a cure in the Wastes, but comes across the moving castle belonging to the wizard Howl. There she meets Calcifer, a fire demon trapped by Howl to power his castle. Calcifer offers to free Sophie from her curse if she in return will free him from his bond. What follows is nigh-on two hours of simply the most beautiful animation, with a walking, sighing, creaking castle (complete with magical doors which open into different towns), a scarecrow with a turnip head, war, a fallen star, true love…
With foreign films I usually prefer to watch the subtitled version, but for those who prefer the English language dub, Pixar’s Peter Docter (director of Monster’s Inc. and Up) did a cracking job and assembled an all-star cast. It features Christian Bale as Howl (after watching Spirited Away he immediately agreed to lend his voice to this film), Jean Simmons as the older Sophie (Emily Mortimer played the younger Sophie), Lauren Bacall as the Witch of the Waste and Billy Crystal as Calcifer.
If you enjoyed Howl’s Moving Castle, might I recommend two other of my favourite Studio Ghibli films, My Neighbour Totoro and Spirited Away? Both directed by Miyazaki, they’re wonderful movies, and you may just see them cropping up later this month…
previously, on The A-Z Challenge
A is for Alien
B is for The Breakfast Club
C is for Catching Fire
D is for Die Hard
E is for The Empire Strikes Bank
F is for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
G is for Goldfinger (and GoldenEye)