Japanese Whispers

I saw a delightful film last night that changed my mood completely. Isn’t that what works of art are for? Even if they are animations? That’s cartoons to me. And I don’t do cartoons. Usually.

I caught up with Whisper of the Heart at the BFI South Bank, where I often hang out, and decided to see this film on a whim. They’d transferred it to the main screen as it was so popular. Yes, a cartoon, so though it’s, essentially, a teen romance, it has more than a sprinkling of Zen, and I was soon transported into the world of 14 year old Shizuku, a girl who loves books and writing (that reason I can blog about it). One day she discovers an odd coincidence in her library books when she notices they’ve all been taken out of the library before by the same person. Thus begins an Alice in Wonderland-style journey into a world of strange cats and odd characters and an uphill road that leads to a seemingly enchanted bric-a-brac store owned by a wise old man. (Aren’t they always?) The rest of the story provides a wonderful metaphor for finding your own path, discovering what it is you love and want to do, then going for it. Even I, a middle-aged woman, had a lot to learn from this 14 year old girl. In fact the writer of this warm, funny and insightful screenplay, Hiyao Myazacki, a man, said the film was aimed at viewers who ‘tend to give up too easily on the idea of being the star of their own stories’.

That film was from 1995, but the same writer and animator has now made his last film, The Wind Rises,  which is out in the cinemas now, and I’m going to see it this week. It sounds a much darker affair, about the designer of a Japanese war plane, of all things. I guess you have to take the Yang with the Yin.



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