24 August 2014

I appreciate very much this homage to Diana Wynne Jones, and I want to add a personal reflection on the power of Miyazaki's film version of Howl's Moving Castle

I saw this movie in a cheap theater on a rainy summer night in 2005 maybe a week before I left this country for Britain, where I would end up spending almost two years working and learning.  One way to describe its impact on me would be to say it unleashed my inner child, although I think the story is absolutely made for adult consumption and cogitation too. 

It is no easy task to translate a fantasy novel onto film, and the fact that this film immediately felt so British to me, and kept popping into my daydreams and even my soberer thoughts while in Britain is a testament to Miyazaki's mastery of his medium and cultural sensitivity.  The lumbering, hissing, stomping yet kindly old moving castle of the title is the perfect embodiment of a country where trainspotting was invented.  The bucolic green landscapes, homely cottages, and sheep flocks that Miyazaki's team drew so lovingly (and in such careful contrast to the bustling industrial cities where the story is propelled forward) seem, to a student of Blake and Wordsworth, entirely familiar -- and appropriately fragile, as the specters of militarism and nationalism are shown to be creeping through this fictional society.  War-worship is hardly just a Japanese problem.

"There is never a moment when Jones’s characters seem to exist to satisfy or defy a stereotype, which means that there is space for them to exist in wonderful, human imperfection."  Very true.  As I got to know many many people in Britain, in all their imperfect beauty (sadly I have fallen out of touch with most of them), I think the forgiving spirit of Jones's writing -- communicated to me somehow through the film -- sat beside me and brought me to enter fully into the life of this other country where I did not grow up.

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