Thursday, 27 December 2007

Movie! ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’


Everyone I’ve spoken to seems to have read Diana Wynne Jones’ ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ at a very young age. In fact, I suspect that I may be the only person in the world who has never read the book at all (please leave a comment if you haven’t read the book either and ease my feelings of loneliness!) However, thanks to the great present buying skills of my wife I can now move firmly into the camp of ‘people who have seen Hayao Miyazaki’s anime version’. Not to put too fine a point on it, it was great.
For those of you who don’t know the story, Sophie is a hat maker who is transformed into a 90 year old woman after getting involved in an ongoing dispute between the Wizard Howl and the wicked Witch of the Waste. Sophie is not the sort to take this lying down and sets out to have her youth restored to her; she finds refuge in Howl’s moving castle and her journey begins. A tale of warfare, love and redemption awaits the viewer…
The first thing you notice about ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ is the absolutely stunning artwork that goes into pretty much every frame of the film. There is so much to see I actually got lost in the amount of detail on the screen and every so often had to remind myself that these were only pictures on my TV screen. I don’t know much about animation but it’s really good to see that in the days of CGI animation there’s still someone somewhere who’s really gone for broke using more traditional methods. I loved the steampunk imagery in particular.
Having watched all the pretty pictures for a while I suddenly realised that there was also a story underpinning all this and that was really good as well. Any character of note (and one character that you wouldn’t have expected) appears to have had a curse placed on them and the story follows their efforts to achieve some measure of peace. Howl also has issues of cowardice to deal with and even the wicked Witch of the Waste elicited a measure of sympathy once I got to know her better. In short, I ended up really getting behind everyone and wanting things to end happily (especially when it became apparent that the rulers of the kingdom had ulterior motives that crossed purposes with our heroes). As well as this, some of the imagery from the ongoing war does tug on the heartstrings…
Like I said, I’ve never read the book but there were points in the film where things felt glossed over and not explained fully. The ending was a bit rushed as well and I’m pretty sure that the circumstances behind one ‘revelation’ were not mentioned earlier on. These are really tiny niggles though when set against a film that I fell in love with when I saw it. I’ll be watching ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ again and I don’t think I’ll ever get bored with it. I may even have to go out and buy the book…


Nine out of Ten

14 comments:

Kristen said...

Don't feel too badly - I haven't read the book, either, when I was a kid or otherwise. In fact, the only book by Diana Wynne Jones I have read is Dogsbody, which I read and enjoyed only 2 or 3 years ago.

I too really loved the movie and really want to read the book, though.

Nicholas said...

I've never even heard of the book.

kendall said...

I haven't read the book or seen the movie. I had heard of the movie, but only recently (a few days ago???) found out it was a book...and by Diana Wynne Jones! (I've heard of her!)

So, don't be lonely!

Peta said...

I feel bad as I had no idea that the film was even based on a book! I loved the film when I saw it a couple of years ago and must dig out my DVD to watch it again.

Constance said...

I never read the book either. *g* See, you're in good company. Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away are two movies I can watch repeatedly, not just for the story but because they are gorgeous too.

Jim Black said...

I have been reading science fiction and fantasy since the early 70s. Like you, I have never read the book.

Graeme Flory said...

To be completely honest, I'd never really heard of Diana Wynne Jones either... (sorry!)

'Spirited Away' also sounds like a good one to check out. I may have to find myself a copy ;o)

Joel Brown said...

Hi Graeme,

First poster, but really enjoy the blog... Just wanted to say I haven't read it either, but loved the movie! :)

Joel

buddyt said...

Hi Graeme,

I have been a fan of the director, Miyazaki for many years and have DVDs of just about all his works.
I can highly recommend them. He has a different slant on things from the normal Hollywood animators and to me he is a genius.
Those of his works that Disney has bought and done the voice dubbing for are great, others where the dubbing has been done by somne other crowd can be a bit hard to follow.
I suggest you also try Spiritied Away, KiKi's Delivery Service, My Friend Tontoro and others of his.

Chris, The Book Swede said...

I'd never heard of it either, though I did read a YA book by DWJ a while back. Gonna have to check out this film, and the book! Loneliness averted?!

~Chris
The Book Swede

Graeme Flory said...

It turns out I was in good company the whole time ;o)
'Spirited Away' is definitely on my list of DVDs to buy and will probably find its way onto here at some point...

Kevin A. Smith said...

I would agree with the other folks about recommending you watch 'Spirited Away' if you enjoyed 'Howl's Moving Castle'. It's my favorite movie by Hayao Miyazaki.

I would also recommend viewing the films in Japanese (at least the first time) with English subtitles. You seem to get a truer version of the emotions that the director is trying to convey in the scenes.

Also, the soundtrack for 'Spirited Away' is fantastic.

Carl V. said...

You're not alone. I've seen the film and really enjoyed it but haven't read the book. In fact I just had my first experience with her books this past year with The Game which I found subpar. I'm not judging her by this however as I'm sure she is a great writer given the people who praise her work. I just think that one wasn't one of her best.

Anonymous said...

Love anything Studio Ghibli ... especially "Spirited Away", "Howl's M C" and "Princess Mononoke" and I cried, really cried, at "Grave of the Fireflies" (heartbreaking).

I've read HMC ... also the sequel "Castle in the Air" (Howl & Sophie feature a little though). And, "House of Many Ways" I've recently bought in Hardback but not read yet.

Ah, now I feel like teacher's pet, who is going to get a wrist-burn or ponytail tug at any minute.

Seriously though, I love Diana Wynne Jones work. Whether the Chrestomanci books, Howl books, or her adult stuff.

Fond memories ...

Wish I had a time-turner gadget thingamyjig!