Howl’s Moving Castle (Hauru no ugoku shiro)
Miyazaki and the Ghibli team are almost always stellar at adaptation. Howl’s… was first a fantastic, semi-satirical and wonderfully imaginative book by English writer Diana Wynne Jones, who published the story in the 1980s. For the film adaptation of Howl’s Miyazaki created what some reviewers feel is another visually stunning film but one that suffers from a dense plot.
I’d actually argue that Howl’s the film uses a simplified plot, where for instance, multiple characters in the book might end up combined into one for the film (Sophie has two sisters in the book for example), or where subplots are either left out or melded.
(And I personally have no problem with this approach (by any filmmaker.) A film is not a book. They are meaningfully different and attempts to attack one for failing to reflect the conventions of the other is tedious.)
But back to Howl’s Moving Castle! Because it’s the castle itself that will probably enchant viewers who've never seen the fulm as much as the characters or story, I thought a link would be in order – see below – because it’s an amazing piece of work, blending CGI and cel animation in a very fluid manner.
Living in the castle is the mysterious Howl, a wizard who enchants (not literally – someone else does that) the main character, Sophie, early on in the film. Howl quickly establishes the strong romantic aspect of the plot but woven between their developing relationship, is magic, war and domesticity all offset by the curse placed on young Sophie, trapping her in the body of a 90 year old woman.
As with many other Miyazaki films, there's a familiar anti-war theme, but he’s not heavy handed – even if some of Howl’s dialogue might been seen as such. More value for the viewer will probably come, once again, from characters’ relationships – take fire-demon Calcifer for one, whose relationship with Howl is not only complex and amusing, but vital to the plot in more ways than one.
Once again, Joe Hisaishi provides a memorable soundtrack, with lush waltzes and moving themes, but instead of linking to the OST, I thought I’d share a great cover of one of the signature pieces, as performed on acoustic guitar by Sungha Jung:
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Ashley Capes is an Australian writer of fiction, poetry and very occasional non-fiction.
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