Movie: Howl’s Moving Castle

"Howl's Moving Castle" by Hayao MiyazakiWhen an unconfident young woman is cursed with an old body by a spiteful witch, her only chance of breaking the spell lies with a self-indulgent yet insecure young wizard and his companions in his legged, walking home.

The first time I encountered Howl’s Moving Castle, back in college, it was through this animated film. I didn’t know it was based off a novel, and that a couple of years later, that same novel was going to make it into my top 10 list of favorite novels of all time. And so I passed on it. The horror! I could say I watched it then and enjoyed it completely, but what’s the point of lying on the internet? Don’t answer that.

Anyway, before I completely go off-tangent again, let’s talk about Howl’s Moving Castle. Specifically, what makes it a different entity from the book. Because personally, I wouldn’t say the film is by Diana Wynne Jones, even though the basic structure of the story (and what propels the story forward) do come from her. And there are numerous film adaptations who would take its source material and just lay it out in film form. Yes, Philosopher’s Stone, I’m looking at you. That’s not the case with Howl’s Moving Castle. And unlike other “adaptations”, *cough*HungerGames*cough*, this one does succeed in keeping the core of the story, while making it an entirely different entity.

After reading the novel, I wanted to go back to this film immediately. But I wasn’t able to, as my copy of the film is with a friend. Still with the same friend, actually. So instead, I decided to read the plot synopsis of the film instead. I must admit that I felt a little peeved that Howl’s Moving Castle, the animated film, was credited more to Hayao Miyazaki and not to the author of the source material. I thought it was an affront to the genius of Miss Jones. That made me turn my nose up on the film.

So what changed my mind? Maturity? Old age? I don’t know. But I finally found myself watching the film after almost three years of consciously pretending it doesn’t exist. And, I don’t think I have to spell it out, but here’s the thing: I completely loved it. And, obviously, I think Hayao Miyazaki did a wonderful job in making it his own.

As a fan of Howl’s Moving Castle, the novel, I still recognized the main story structure and the characters. But how the story unfolded was  taken into a different direction, and what a turn it took. Even though I knew where everything was going, I was still at the edge of my seat, excitedly waiting for what happens next. It was like I knew nothing about the story. And it felt wonderful. Why? Because I got to relive the first-time enjoyment I experienced after reading the novel. And, ask anyone, that’s pretty hard to do once you know where things are going.

The only complaint I have, if it is one, is that the film was too short. The other things, like what happened to Sophie’s other sister (the one she mentions near the beginning of the film), I can let pass. Because I know what happened there, in the book. I guess strangers to the book can write it off as a throwaway line. I guess. It doesn’t lessen one’s enjoyment of the film, for sure.

As for the thing I liked the most about the film? I love how they treated Sophie’s curse. It was magnificent. And totally not how I imagined the curse to be like when I was reading the book–which is what, I guess, I could say for the entire film. It wasn’t what I imagined, but it was magnificent.

Which is why, lesson learned, one must never really judge things by how they are described by other people. Which is an odd thing to say, being that I blog my reactions on books, television shows, and films. But it is what it is. Let other people influence you, but never let them make your decisions for you. If you let opinions cloud your judgment, you might never find things to enjoy.

6 thoughts on “Movie: Howl’s Moving Castle

  1. I agree, the movie adaptation is very different from DWJ’s novel but I loved both the book and the film. 🙂 I keep meaning to watch the rest of Hayao Miyazaki’s films but I haven’t had a chance to do that.

  2. I recently discovered the existence of the novel with which the animated film by Miyazaki was supposedly based. Haven’t read it yet, but after a little research I learned that the movie was not a direct adaptation of the novel. Nevertheless, :respect: for Miyazaki for making it his own.

    “If you let opinions cloud your judgment, you might never find things to enjoy.”

    I couldn’t agree with you more with this one. Each of us has his own taste – with the things we read, watch, or listen to. I’ve given up on some books after reading mixed reviews, although, reading through them, I actually find most of them enjoyable. I’d say reviews and opinions provide you with good insight but it should stop there.

    I digress. Going back, I suggest you start watching Miyazaki’s other works. He has his way of making the characters likable and someone you can relate to. Not to mention his superb renders on the environment/setting of his story. He has his own magic in animation.

    • I have seen many of Miyazaki’s works 🙂 I just held off on this one because of the misplaced affront aforementioned. Spirited Away, which is also one of Miyazaki’s creations, is one of my most favorite films.

      And yes, the movie really isn’t a direct adaptation of the source material. Which is why, I think, I enjoyed the film so much. That said, do find the time to read the novel. It’s a whole new world to explore from what the film has shown. 🙂

      Thanks for dropping by my blog!

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