Film & DVD Review: Howl’s Moving Castle

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

Sophie Hatter is a kind of Cinderella figure. Although the whole family was left the millinery shop on the death of her Father she is doing all the work. News spreads that the that Wizard Howl’s (Bale) castle has been sighted. The Castle has legs and moves from place to place. Howl is infamous for seducing women and (it is rumoured) devouring their hearts. Yet Sophie (foolishly) thinks she is safe and that she wouldn’t rate a second glance. She goes to visit her Sister Letty (Malone).

Along the way she is harassed by soldiers, meets a mysterious stranger and has a curse placed on her by the Witch of the Waste (Bacall) which makers her 90-years-old. She seeks a means of lifting the curse and finally arrives at The Castle.

The film centres on how the war can be ended and whether Howl will find his heart. As the film progresses so do the characters. Sophie toughens up and Howl becomes more sympathetic.

There’s a lot to love in “Howl’s Moving Castle.” Miyazaki conveys both the power and horror of war. He never resorts to mere stereotype. Howl the sorcerer and his demon companion Clacifer combine both charm and terror. Contradictory or sublime? There are no stark divisions between enemy and friend – just shades of grey which are perhaps more true to life. Younger kids should probably watch this with parents or other responsible adults as it can be quite scary too.

Howl’s Moving Castle is based on the novel by Diana Wynne Jones.

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