Sunday, 10 January 2010

Hotaru No Haka - Grave of the Fireflies (Isao Takahata, 1988)– mini review (Not an in depth account, simply my impressions)

All posts may include spoilers – for a plot summary see IMDB


I Went on a bit of a Miyazaki marathon at the beginning of the year. Picking up anything they had in that CEX shop. After seeing (and loving) a fair few of them I saw this film in the same section. It was in a Studio Ghibli box but not directed by Miyazaki; further to this I realised that the 12 certificate was a little higher than the family favourite Miyazakis so I thought it was worth checking out. I knew absolutely nothing about it when I bought it but between buying it and watching it, the film was brought up on the Filmspotting podcast whilst discussing their top five tear jerkers. – Hmmm so it’s gonna be a sad one then?

Depression Session

And a sad one it was. This was one of the most depressing films I have seen... well in a long time and in terms of being uncompromisingly grim, possibly the most depressing ever. Even film’s like Lars Von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark (2000) had a glimmer of hope that things would be ok.

I loved how much an animated feature could make me feel so strongly about something and I understand that the point of this film was how relentless war is, but watching this was just like watching depression-session-misery-torture.

There was no way of it ending up with any form of hope, joy or optimism. I do not mind something not having a happy-ever-after ending, in fact I’d usually complain when things are too happy happy but I think that the best tear-jerker moments and the ones that have the most impact are those where either unfortunate events - to a certain extent - come by surprise, or more specifically that you know there could be something horrible about to happen but you are still not sure and there is still the chance of everything being alright. The shattering of this built up hope leaves you feeling more vulnerable and therefore increases the effectiveness of the narrative.

By showing you at this film’s opening that the main character dies and joins his little sister in the afterlife, once his mother dies in the opening act you know there really is no way out for the doomed little boy. This does succeed at showing the uncompromising relentless nature of war but it really was tortuous and difficult to watch. In a way I admire the film’s approach but at the same time I didn’t really enjoy it.

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