Thursday, May 04, 2006

Howl's Moving Castle the movie (Spoliers)

I finally got hold of a copy of Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle yesterday. My initial reaction was "Wow!" because it's a beautiful animation, bright and bold, and very fantastic in looks. But I confess, I spent much of the two hours of its running time picking my jaw up off the floor because its plot is radically different from the plot of Diana Wynne Jones' book, Howl's Moving Castle. The Miyazaki film is clearly not an adaptation so much as an interpretation with Miyazaki themes including airships, cute non-human sidekicks and redemption (I've been reading up on Miyazaki !). The focus of the film is still on Sophie and her adventure whilst cursed with old age, but the main action of the plot takes place during a war, that is reminiscent of World War One and is located in a fantastical nation. Whilst the novel concentrates on Howl's womanizing and his attempts to weasel out of locating a missing prince and a missing wizard, the film depicts Howl avoiding requests to help out in the war for pacifist reasons, and deals with the consequences of his decision.

Many of the book's characters are also modified in the film. Howl's apprentice, Michael Fisher, is a teenager in the book but a young boy called Markl in the film. Sophie has just one sister in the film instead of the two in the book. Astonishingly the Witch of the Waste, is a huge heavyset woman who later becomes an old crone, instead of looking young and beautiful, and rather than terrorising the other characters as a frightening villain, she is treated as a grandmother character and even taken into Howl's home. Calcifer, who appears to be a scary fire demon in the book, becomes an adorable little flame in the film. Also, in the film Howl has the ability to turn into a large, powerful bird. Finally, whilst there is a "Wizard Suliman" in the book, in the film this character become a female sorceror, "Madame Suliman", who bullies people.

Having said all this, the film is very good; it's very watchable and quite gorgeous, but very confusing to watch if you're familiar with the book !


Martin LaBar said...

We saw it a couple of weeks ago. Haven't read the book yet, but should. I wondered about that heavy witch, even without reading the book.

Mrs. Coulter said...

When we watched it, Lee kept asking me if such and such was in the book. And I kept telling him no, though there were significant elements in common. But it was Miyazaki, through and through. Love his airship obsession!

Michele said...

I confess I'm now wondering what Studio Ghibli will make of the "Tales from Earthsea" film !

I did find the film very enjoyable to watch - as a film - but very, very confusing as an adaptation !

Liz B said...

I'm on the hold list for the DVD and have not read the book. I remember when it first came out that people noted the difference between book and movie, but it seems that Miyazaki is so well loved that no one got very upset about changes.

Michele said...

Yes I've heard mostly good things about it. Anime is a new form for me - and I very much liked what I saw. But I was very, very confused by the adaptation ! I imagine, Liz, that you'll get on better with the film if you've not read the book. You might find it interesting to read the book later on, though. It's a very enjoyable book !