Re: Howl's Moving Castle - an Analysis
- From: "ten/mark" <tenchsama@xxxxxxx>
- Date: Wed, 24 Aug 2005 20:10:33 -0400
Sorry I didnt have time to read more than the first dozen or so paragraphs,
but I still have a life, ya know?
Not sure what your opinion was... I liked it.
"Dave G" <davegullik@xxxxxxx> wrote in message
> Over the course of the last few months, I've read review after review
> by critics and fans who watched Howl's Moving Castle and never "got
> it". I've only read a few people's postings in anime newsgroups
> where it was evident that the writer really saw the point of the movie.
> Some fell into the trap of expecting it to be like the book. Others
> wanted to understand the entire movie at one sitting. This movie is
> easily Miyazaki's most subtle and complex, and I finally felt the
> need to put into print an in-depth analysis that would put to rest a
> lot of the misconceptions that the critics had about its plot.
> This analysis goes into quite some depth and contains major SPOILERS.
> It will only make sense if you have watched it at least once. My advice
> is to read it only if you are completely baffled as to what is going on
> in the movie, or you want to compare it to your own interpretation.
> Like many true works of art, Howl's Moving Castle works on many
> levels. By no means do I claim to understand everything about the
> movie, so I offer this explanation as a starting point only.
> Probably the most interesting place to begin is at a specific scene in
> the middle of the movie. Sophie and Markl are taking a rare shopping
> trip for food outside the castle. A war fleet has just pulled into the
> harbor and the town's populace swarms to the shore to see it.
> Sophie and Markl follow the crowd, but Sophie is cautious. Suddenly she
> sees one of the Witch of the Waste's black minions and tries to make
> herself inconspicuous. Then she observes that the creature is walking
> around in plain sight but no one is noticing it. She says to herself
> that must mean that it can't be seen by ordinary people.
> I'm embarrassed to say that this flew right over my head the first
> time I watched it, because Sophie never put it together that if SHE
> could see it, then she must have magic powers herself! Not only that,
> but in some ways she is the most powerful of all the magical beings in
> the film. It is almost a paradox that, because she spends so much time
> preoccupied with herself, she never realizes that she is causing her
> own condition!
> These is of fundamental importance in the film. It shifts the emphasis
> from Sophie being a victim pulled along by circumstances to her being a
> driving force.
> This explains a great deal, but there is another scene that must be
> re-interpreted in order to understand how her magic fits in to the
> plot, and it happens fairly early in the movie.
> Sophie and Howl have just finished making their first meal (over
> Calcifer's objections) and they and Markl are in the process of
> eating, when Howl asks Sophie what she has in her pocket. Sophie
> doesn't know that the Witch of the Waste has given her a message to
> deliver; a curse on Howl for jilting her years ago.
> Howl easily nullifies the curse, but when Markl asks if it's gone,
> Howl responds that it still remains, as there is a strong and ancient
> magic he cannot overcome. Obviously, we all think that he's talking
> about the curse he just erased. But, in fact, he's talking about
> SOPHIE'S magic. He has broken the Witch's curse on Sophie, but
> Sophie is now using her own, stronger, magic to keep herself old!
> OK, so WHY would Sophie make HERSELF old? Because she LIKES being old!
> There are many reasons for this:
> 1) Sophie has always FELT old. She dresses old and comments when
> she's first transformed into an old woman that at least her clothes
> finally suit her. She does this in spite of working in the fashion
> industry, making hats, surrounded by people wearing gorgeous clothes.
> This emphasizes how low her self-esteem is as a young woman.
> 2) Sophie makes it plain to her sister that she feels ugly, that no man
> will ever love her, and that the best she can ever hope for is to live
> out her life in the obscurity of the hat shop. So what is the advantage
> to being young?
> 3) Sophie went through a frightening experience being accosted by the
> soldiers. As an old woman, suddenly she has camouflage. She will be
> treated kindly instead of being leered at.
> 4) This leads to the realization that, as an old woman, she has
> suddenly gained respect! Old women are wise, can get away with much a
> younger person can't, and can get willing assistance from others.
> Besides, now she can pursue activities more suited to an older person,
> admiring the scenery and taking her time.
> 5) Sophie concludes that, in effect, she has changed into a new and
> better person. She is so attracted by this role that she realizes that
> she must leave the hat shop in order to become in fact the person that
> she looks like ("I can't stay here" she mutters to herself). If
> she were to stay, her mother and sisters would pity her, or look down
> on her as a burden, as the poor unfortunate young girl trapped in an
> old body. This also offers an escape from the depressing responsibility
> of running the hat shop for the rest of her life.
> Now we can see motives behind her actions. She isn't really upset
> about becoming old, because it's an escape from her miserable former
> life, and a secure place to hide from her feelings and
> Her leaving home now makes much more sense. She's not trying to find
> a cure, she's escaping her old life, everyone she's known and
> everyone who knows her.
> So when Howl breaks the curse, Sophie is unaffected, her own magic
> keeping her comfortably old. But she isn't perfect. She reverts back
> when she falls asleep, and, when it suits her, she can become younger
> enough to do a strenuous job (many times you see her walking much more
> upright and with fewer wrinkles). Now you can see why the Witch of the
> Waste was surprised that Sophie was able to climb the stairs, as she
> made herself just young enough to manage it. She also can become
> younger inadvertently when she stops feeling sorry for herself and
> becomes concerned for another, or when she is feeling especially secure
> in another's company.
> Interestingly, Sophie never catches on to this. She is so preoccupied
> with self-preservation that this all happens without her conscious
> Several people have interpreted Sophie's transformation back to her
> younger self as the product of love overcoming the Witch's curse. In
> fact, it is love that must persuade Sophie to STOP using her magic to
> avoid commitment.
> I haven't seen this explanation on ANY critic's review of the
> movie. It dramatically affects the way you interpret Howl's behavior.
> He falls in love with her early in the film, after seeing her in her
> natural state while asleep, and admiring her spirit when she is awake.
> You can see several places where Howl makes an effort to help her come
> out of her "old" cocoon. The scene that reveals this the most is in
> the garden that Howl brings her to. Although she's delighted with the
> whole thing, and Howl thinks he's made good progress, he gives a
> grimace of disappointment when she reverts back to her secure old self,
> once again avoiding intimacy.
> I thought it was interesting that when she finally turns back to her
> younger self at the end of the movie, she keeps her gray hair. Although
> this could be interpreted many ways, my personal favorite is that
> Sophie does this to show that she has incorporated the peace, wisdom,
> and security of her older self permanently into her new life.
> Most reviewers don't comment much on Calcifer, but what he is and how
> he got there is also important.
> We see in a rather confused flashback what Sophie experiences when she
> observes Howl as a young man. It takes some puzzling to realize what is
> happening here. Calcifer is a shooting star. We can see the stars
> falling and fading away as they die once they have landed. But Howl
> catches Calcifer and swallows him, and Calcifer remains alive because
> Howl has given him his own heart.
> This is a trap for both of them, and neither of them know how to get
> out of it. Calcifer is forced to do Howl's bidding as a servant for
> the rest of his days, but Howl's fate is that he must safeguard
> Calcifer or he will die himself. Essentially, they are the same being,
> a fact that Suliman tried to show Sophie in the palace.
> When Howl needs his heart back from Calcifer, it is Sophie's job to
> do it. Calcifer knows that she loves them and will do whatever she can
> to keep both of them alive. Since she has no conscious control of her
> magic, it's pretty iffy. But she's able to accomplish what Howl was
> not: to keep Calcifer alive by magic only, without the aid of a human
> heart. This is another clue that Sophie's magic is stronger than
> An aspect to consider is that Howl might not be able to mature or
> really love without his heart back. Certainly the book implies that. In
> the movie, though, Howl is clearly reaching out to Sophie many times
> before the end, so perhaps his getting his heart back might be
> interpreted as his attaining the ability to commit to a single person
> instead of "stealing girls hearts" as he is reputed to do by
> Sophie's sister.
> But why did the Witch of the Waste give Sophie the heart back? She'd
> been pursuing it for years, if not centuries, and professed to hating
> Howl every minute.
> I think there were several reasons:
> 1) When it finally came down to it, the Witch was still in love with
> Howl, and was finding it hard to do the final deed of killing him.
> 2) It was obvious that Sophie loved Howl, and killing him would hurt
> Sophie terribly. Since Sophie had shown her such kindness when she was
> down and out, and the Witch had now come to care for her, this would
> have been the ultimate betrayal.
> 3) The Witch realized that Sophie loved Howl more than she ever did
> herself in the past. It made her feel petty and her quest to get
> revenge, empty.
> You note that I have not mentioned the war. Adding the war was perhaps
> the most fundamental departure Miyazaki made from the book. We should
> not be surprised that Miyazaki uses this film, as he has in so many
> others, to express his own anti-war attitude, showing how it turns
> innocent people into monsters. However, the strong imagery and frequent
> wartime activities throughout the movie are a red herring, as it was
> never more than a plot device to add tension and to portray Howl in a
> heroic light. Both Howl and Sophie must be exposed to danger for the
> love they develop for each other to blossom, and the final settlement
> of the war comes about only to give the now-happy couple the peace and
> security they both crave.
> I hope you've enjoyed my analysis and will use it as a guide to watch
> Howl's Moving Castle again with new understanding. It is well worth
> the effort. I highlighted only what I thought were the more critical
> parts of the movie, essential to making sense of it all. There's a
> great deal more to discover, and I look forward to numerous more
> I hope you'll leave a comment as to whether you found this helpful and
> add any additional observations you think might enhance the enjoyment
> and understanding of the movie.
> Dave Gulliksen
- Howl's Moving Castle - an Analysis
- From: Dave G
- Howl's Moving Castle - an Analysis
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