Sunday, June 26, 2005

Howl's Moving Castle Review and Analysis

Finally, I had enough time to put up my review for Howl's Moving Castle. I saw it on opening day June 10 at the Mayan Theater. Howl's Moving Castle is the latest movie from the director Hayao Miyazaki. This movie is adapted from Diane Wynne Jones's book of the same name. I didn't get the chance to read her book before I saw the movie, but I might pick it up.

Howl is about a young girl named Sophie who gets turned into a 90 year-old woman by the Witch of the Waste. She takes refuge in a moving castle that is owned by the notorious Howl. Howl leads Sophie through enchanting mayhem.

Pretty vague summary huh? Well, this movie is something you just have to see. Some scenes and situations you really can't describe.

There have been many reviews saying that this is not the best of Miyazaki's work. Sadly, this is true. Howl's Moving Castle is a bit more perplexing and a lot more mysterious than his other works. However, I still enjoyed this movie. It is definitely MUCH better than Steamboy (which came out earlier this year.) I actually was entertained through out Howl's Moving Castle even though some parts were unclear. Oddly, after a couple days, the movie made more sense.

Analysis (Spoilers)

The more you think about this movie; the more it makes sense. A lot of people complained that this movie wasn't very deep or had didn't have different metaphors like other Miyazaki movies. That is false. One quote from Diana Wynne Jones allowed me to figure out why in the world Sophie kept on changing without warning throughout the movie. I couldn't find the quote (sadness) but it described how Jones always wanted to convey how old people have the spirit of young people. The only limit is their own appearance and self image.

In the movie, Sophie doesn't think highly of herself. She even feels a little bit more comfortable in an old woman's body! Her transformations (young and old) during the movie reflected her self esteem or when she had a child like spirit and ideal. I believe Sophie never was dispelled of the witch's magic. Yup peeps, I thinks she is still an old woman at the end of the movie (that is why her hair is still gray.) She only looks young because she finally fell in love and truly accepted herself.

The prince and the scarecrow confused a lot of people. I think it was there for a twist and a later realization that "Turnip head" is a stalker lol.

Now Howl himself is quite mysterious. The sub-plot about him losing his heart is quite confusing, but could also be used as an excuse for another metaphor. Howl seems to have a common routine and no spice in his life. He's always running away and never takes care of anything, especially the castle. As soon as Sophie comes along, he begins to have situations like the hair fiasco to cause him to feel emotions. He begins to open his heart and allows Sophie to journey into his past. She discovers he has a heart that they can both share. Aww they fell in love lol. So in a roundabout way it makes sense.

Well that's how I perceived the movie. It was a beautiful and fun movie. A little bit hard to understand, but worth it in the end.Posted by Hello


Anonymous said...

I thought this movie was so captivating, also but because of its strange events, I found it hard to pinpoint an underlying message. You, however, explained it so well, I appreciate the movie even more, now.
And the prince of the kingdom? A stalker? Really?

Thanks for the time you put into posting this.

Anonymous said...

I found that Howl's Moving Castle appeared to somehow invoke a mysterious feeling. Altogether not entirely captivating, though Calcifer was portrayed as such a cute little flame! I was not entirely captivated by the movie for several reasons: Howl was not as wonderful as he was written as in the book. tending to not criticize Sophie as much and not act as lovable - I find that I was not entirely fond of the Howell Jenkins that Miyazaki conjured. They described Sophie and Howls' relationship more as the movie progressed - I would have preferred they kept the witch as the main antagonist and simply left it there. However, I appreciate the fact that again, Miyazaki has composed wonderful and such idealistic characters. I love how Sophie was even more self-conscious of herself now than she was in the book, and that so many characters had all those little flaws made the whole thing wonderful. Howl, a superficial and unrealistic character, protected Sophie many times in the movie, again proving that he really does love her in some ways. I think that Howl does not really say it, but likes her very much. It was all revealed in the end - in the book, there were small hints about the relationship both Howl and Sophie possessed, but not as blatantly stated as the one in Howl's Moving Castle the film. Another one of Studio Ghibli's wonderful masterpieces.

Anonymous said...

I hated the movie the first time i saw it, then after i watched it more i hated it a little less.

Studio Gibli fan said...

In my opinion, you should really read the book then watch the movie. If not it really doesn't make sense. For example, it may not occur to you why Howl is sometimes called the Great Wizard Jenkins in Porthaven, until you read the book and analyse Howl's background. Yep. And Howl in the book is a more lovable creature with good qualities and bad ones like being vain and squirming away from trouble. Howl in the film is 'perfect' all the way till he suddenly comes screaming out of the bathroom and showing how vain he is. At least the book gives some initial reference to him being vain at the start. The movie just puts him like that and you think: 'Huh? When was he this vain? How come there was no such reference before?' and also the part where he tells Sophie that he had to stop squirming away from trouble because he had someone to care for - Sophie - which leads audience to start thinking: when did he ever squirm away from trouble? Didn't he self - invite himself into trouble by helping Sophie at the start of the movie? Overall, a lovely movie, with no doubt a few flaws (Director Hayao probably tried to create a new work out of the existing book, which explains why some things just seem so perplexing to the audience who hasn't read the book.)

Anonymous said...

I actually felt that at the end of the movie that Sophie was young again. The reason her hair stayed "starlight" colored is because she gave her hair to Calcifer so that he would have the strength to move the Castle to Howl. That is also why she is able to hold Calcifer at the end of the movie, because now she has the little bond with Calcifer instead of Howl, who at that point had regained his heart.

Merete Bøye said...

Just watched it with my kids, and we wondered and discussed throughout the film, why Sophie keeps changing from old to young and back again.

I think that the curse was not that Sophie was turned into an old woman, but that she would from now on outwardly appear as old as she felt in her heart. "At least now my clothes fit me" as she says, when she first becomes old. Or: at least now my appearance fits me.

She begins to get young periodically at first when she forgets herself (which, in her self loathing, she very rarely does), and she becomes more permanently young when she forgets how ugly and dull she is (which, by the way, in the opinion of others, she never was) and allows herself to "live and love". a bit banal, perhaps, but still the story is told in a compelling way.

Another thing: what was all that about the war? Completely without relevance to the plot, oh, and do we really - REALLY - believe the way King Turniphead and Suliman suddenly decide that the war was a waste of time anyway and they might just as well end it?

Ellen Yu said...

Thank you everyone for your comments. ^^

I was a bit surprised this was such a popular post after so many years. (I found out comes up in google first under "howl's moving castle analysis."

I love reading everyone's own analysis in the comment section. Thank you for contributing to my blog.

Anonymous said...

@Merete Bøye

I think I read somewhere that the book and the movie were influenced by a war in Iraq or something :)