Howl’s Moving Castle
Recently Film Four showed Studio Ghibli’s movies over the spring half term. I immediately set up the sky box to record them. I didn’t even have to think about it. I just knew that I didn’t want to miss them. I also knew that I wanted my son to see them. He’s five and his taste usually vary considerably. Minecraft, Mario and Pac-man are the things he likes to currently watch. The thing I like about Studio Ghibli’s movies is that they are suitable for all ages. They have a sense of wonder that I think can get missed or gets lost as a child gets older. So I turned it on and Nathan and I sat down to watch it together. It isn’t the first time I’ve watched it but I still enjoyed it. It held Nathan’s attention and frankly he fidgeted a lot less. My son just doesn’t seem to want to sit still but I think that’s a trait most five year olds share.
So what do I love about the movie?
It opens on Sophie, a hat maker, who meets Howl, a wizard, by chance. She is then cursed by the jealous Witch of the Wilds to become an old woman. Sophie heads out into the wilds and after helping a scarecrow with the head of a turnip, is lead to the moving castle and meets Calcifer, the fire spirit/demon who shares a bond with Howl and keeps the castle together, Markl, Howl’s apprentice and eventually Howl, who doesn’t recognizes her as the girl he met at the beginning of the movie, until later.
Two countries are at war over a missing prince. The Kings’ want all of the wizards and witches to join up to their armies which has created odd, twisted monsters like oily ink as they’ve lost their humanity. Howl is being hounded to join both armies, as he is living under two identities and the door to the castle can be accessed from four places in the world. Sophie makes a deal with Calcifer that will break the spell over her but the solution to her problem lies with her. She just needs to believe.
All of these characters have their faults. They aren’t cardboard cut outs. It makes the viewer more invested in their journey. We want to see them grow. Sophie finds freedom in being old, she speaks her mind and become stronger for it. It’s her who brings the group together, sure they’d been living together in the castle before she got there but she made the castle a home. She became the heart. Howl discovers something that he wants to protect and that makes him stronger. She wins over Calcifer, which surprises Markl since the fire spirit only listens and obeys orders from Howl. The Witch of the Wilds, the one who curses her, also grows as Sophie shows her kindness. In the end it didn’t matter that the witch cursed her. When the witch needed help, Sophie gave it to her. The castle itself can also be considered a character, it’s a living extension to Calcifer and Howl, with chicken like legs it moves across the wilds with an unsteady gait. When Sophie cleans it, it reveals rich, warm colours, character.
This is a movie that inspires. It gives the viewer a sense of wonder. You become caught up in the story, so it doesn’t matter if this is the first time you’ve watched it, the third or the sixth. That isn’t something you loss with this movie.
Add this movie to your watch list 🙂