(continuing with the top 100 countdown that I've abandoned for so long.)
I’m quite an emotional person, and sometimes, a film make me hurt so much, that, even after the credits have rolled, I’m sat there crying like a baby. It happened with A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, and it also happened with The Green Mile. However, it hardly ever happens with animated films. Bambi, I was sad, but didn’t shed a tear. Same goes for Dumbo, The Lion King, and various others. This all changed when I viewed Studio Ghibli’s Hotaru no haka, one of their most discernibly sobering and adult outings.
Set in Japan during close of WWII, it tells the story of two orphans, 14-year-old Seita and 4-year-old Setsuko, brother and sister. Their mother has died in a bomb raid, and their dad in service to the Japanese navy. At the start, Seita is dying of starvation, and the story of the two is told in flashbacks by the spirits of the two siblings, and how they lived in a bomb shelter, looking after themselves, struggling to find food to survive.
Despite there being heartbreak aplenty, there is much more to Graves of Fireflies than just doom and gloom. It is one of the most powerful depictions of familiarly love I have ever seen. The film is constructed by small details and by the moments of interaction between Seita and Setsuko, their daily routines, adapted and conditioned to the difficulties brought by the bombings. As far as Ghibli goes, the art is simple, but utterly realistic, and they serve to tell this simple story and bring the experience to you; I could practically smell the gunpowder, see the yellow hues, hear the bombs going off. The imagery which the artwork evokes is nothing short of amazing, and sadly, all that lies for the two at the end are empty graces.
What really resonated with me and cut me like a knife was how Setsuko cared for his sister. At the start, when he knows his mother has died, he tries to keep this from her, and to shelter her from the hardship all around. The war may have deprived him of everything he held dear, but he still has his sister, and he tries his darndest to do his best for her. Throughout the course of the movie he does make his mistakes – but that’s part of the learning curve for him, it makes him human, and we love him for it. That we’re told from the start how the film pans out – the characters don’t make it – doesn’t detract from the sorrow that the final frames caused me.
War movies are not a favourite of mine; on the whole, I find them rather boring. But this is a movie that the whole world should see, because it illustrates the straightforward point that those that suffer most are the innocent, and at the end of the day, it achieves nothing.