Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Based on a book...

Howl's Moving Castle

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Screenplay by Hayao Miyazaki

Original Book by Diana Wynne Jones

Howl's Moving Castle (released in 2004) has become a popular DVD in our library. And with good reason. For those of you new to Anime, Miyazaki is an amazing director and storyteller. He was also responsible for the animated classics Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away (for which he won the Oscar), and one of my favorites, NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind. Howl's Moving Castle was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Animated Feature Film category.

For the English translation, some of Hollywood's best actors and actresses give voice to the lively characters. Christian Bale does a wonderful job capturing the wizard, Howl, in both his petulance and selfless courage. Lauren Bacall plays the Witch of the Waste, and Emily Mortimer and Jean Simmons share the task of bringin the heroine, Sophie to life. Billy Crystal is perfect as the fire demon, Calcifer. The art and scope of the animation is beautiful. The way all the various parts of the castle move and then slump down when they come to a stop is amazing. I really can't say enough good things about this movie, and our patrons obviously agree since the DVD is seldom on the shelf. However, when I stop and talk to people about this wonderful movie, they almost never know that the movie was actually based on an equally wonderful book.

Howl's Moving Castle, written by Diana Wynne Jones, was originally published in 1986. Sophie is the oldest of three sisters. Sophie knows from all the old stories that the eldest sister seldom does well in life, and so she expects very little. Day in and day out she creates hats in her family's shop. When her younger sisters are apprenticed, one to a bakery and the other to a witch, Sophie stays behind putting all of her suppressed feelings into the hats that she makes. Then one evening as she is about to close, a woman enters the shop demanding the perfect hat. The woman turns out to be the Witch of the Waste, and for no reason that Sophie can understand, the witch turns Sophie into an old woman. Part of the curse is that Sophie can't tell anyone what has happened to her, and so realizing that she no longer has anything to lose, Sophie goes out into the world. After some effort she finds the moving castle of the land's most famous wizard, Howl. While Howl is still gone, Sophie hires herself as his housekeeper and sets to work. Life is never the same for either of them again.

While both the movie and the book begin the same, about half-way through, the movie's plot/events change quite a bit making the two endings somewhat different. Naturally, the book has a lot more detail, especially about Sophie's family life, and extra characters, which make many of the details and events in the movie more clear. Sophie is a fun and plucky old woman. Seeing her boss everyone around, including Howl, is definitely the high light of both the book and the movie.

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