A new film from Studio Ghibli – preferably one in which director Hayao Miyazaki has a hand in (he did not direct Arietty but wrote the screenplay) – is always an event of significance for me.
Thanks to the Embassy of Japan and the Arc Cinema, the inhabitants of the Bush Capital were able to catch Arietty at the 2011 Japanese Film Festival, ahead of it 2012 commercial Australian release.
On a rainy Sunday afternoon, I popped along to the sold out screening, gleeful at the prospect of losing myself in another of Miyazaki’s lovely, whimsical tales.
Based loosely on Mary Norton’s The Borrowers, Arietty is the story of a family of ‘little people’ who get by in this world by keeping out of the sight of ‘human beans’ and ‘borrowing’ things misplaced or lost by humans.
The eponymous heroine is a fourteen year old ‘borrower’ who lives with her parents in the foundations of a large, rambling Edwardian house. Things come unstuck when Sho, a sickly boy who comes to stay in the house, sees her and, in a great movie tradition, an unlikely friendship begins.
I adore Miyazaki’s films for his plucky, pacifist heroines (and heroes). I love his subtle portrayal of the grander emotions such as duty, honour, guilt, sadness, love and the more pedestrian ones such as boredom and frustration. Miyazaki favours characters which are grey, rather black or white, and is particularly adept in showing their spiritual and emotional development . Though his characters may negotiate war, natural disasters and people out to do them (and their friends and families) harm, they are not merely people of action. Miyazaki seems to delight in showing moments where the characters take time out to simply enjoy a quiet moment, or to reflect on things.
Arietty ticks all these boxes. If I do have a complaint, it is that this movie touches on grander themes such as environmental destruction and extinction of species, but doesn’t explore these issues any further. The film also feels like the first of a series, rather than a complete, self-contained story. As such, Arietty doesn’t have the grand sweeping scale of Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind or Princess Mononoke but it’s always a pleasure to disappear for an afternoon into one of Miyazaki’s worlds.
Oh, and the hand-drawn backgrounds are always beautiful.
(French movie poster taken from here)
(Stills taken from the official UK trailer from here)