Howl’s Moving Castle
Release Year: 2005
Running Time: 1 hour 59 minutes
I love Hayao Miyazaki’s films to death. The animation is always stunning and the stories are whimsical and heartfelt. So, I’m pretty thrilled that he did an adaptation of one of my favorite books, “Howl’s Moving Castle” by Diana Wynne Jones. The tone of the film and direction the plot takes is pretty different from the book, but this is one of those rare instances where I love them both equally.
The plot goes thusly, Sophie is a quiet young woman working in her family’s hat shop. When she accidentally catches the attention the Witch of the Waste, she’s placed under a curse that turns her into an old woman. Unable to stay cloistered in the hat shop any longer, she ventures out on her own and starts working as a housekeeper for the Wizard Howl.
Howl is a coward. He uses his moving castle and many different names in an attempt to avoid getting pulled into a looming war. When Sophie shows up in his house and announces she’s his new housekeeper, he takes it in stride. Slowly Sophie’s demeanor and the events happening outside the castle make him realize that he has to actually do something.
Like I said earlier, this movie and the book are two very different beasts. The movie focuses more on the theme of war and tones down Sophie and Howl’s characters. The movie also focuses a lot on forgiveness. The Witch of the Waste could have very easily been portrayed as an antagonist that needed to be banished, but instead she’s slowly shown as someone who should be pitied.
What I really love though, is how Sophie’s curse is handled. When Sophie is turned into an old woman, it actually spurs her into activity. She goes on an adventure and takes some initiative with things that she wouldn’t have done if she hadn’t been that age. I also liked that the key to breaking the curse was in her hands.
While I love Sophie and Howl here, I have to say that I miss the dynamic between them in the book. In the novel, Howl and Sophie are constantly bickering with each other and Sophie is more outspoken. Howl is also an unapologetic flirt and more fun loving. In the movie, he has more weight to his character. He feels burdened with what is being asked of him and hates war.
All in all, this is worth the watch. The artwork, music and story are beautiful. However, I would still recommend reading the book. They’re very different, but both incredibly enjoyable.