Sunday, March 9, 2014

Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

This was recommended to me by my good friend Robbie, and while I was grateful for discovering another great film, I also wanted to sucker punch him in the face. A million times! Why? 

"Hotaru no haka"
Written & Directed by:  Isao Takahata
Based on the 1967 semi-autobiographical novel by Akiyuki Nosaka
Music by:  Michio Mimiya
Cinematography by:  Nobuo Koyoma
Editing by:  Takeshi Seyama
Running Time:  89 mins

Because this is one of the most heartbreaking films I have ever seen in my life. To think that this is a cartoon, I mean, why don't they just stick to that wonderful concept that animations are supposed to entertain? 

There are sad movies and I have seen quite a few. Yes, they make me shed a few tears, but after that, I shrug it off and mumble "Good film! Onto the next one!". Then there's Grave of the Fireflies. A movie in a category of its own. A story filled with grief beyond expectations. A film that after watching it, I tell myself "I don't want to watch something like this anytime soon. Please noooo!"

This movie made me realize all the more about the ugly face of war, how brutal it is and how it destroys life. It made me angrier, how nations (the people running it) thrive on wars solely for political/territorial reasons. Humans really are the most destructive species in this world. I mean dinosaurs were wiped out because of some meteor (or their farts. Whatever), but mankind will be responsible for its own annihilation. It's disgusting how little regard we have for human life.

Looking beyond the war aspect, the story is very simple. A young boy (Seita) tries to survive while caring for his younger sister (Setsuko) who has nothing but love & respect for her brother. We see it everyday. People dying of hunger. We don't need to go to Africa to see poverty & hunger, we only need to open our eyes and look around our surroundings. This film somehow made me see the struggle some people go through everyday just to put a spoonful of rice in their mouths and here I am wasting it, or worse - complaining. For an hour and a half, Takahata puts me in the shoes (or barefoot O_O ) of people who have to resort to anything just to live day by day, and it breaks my heart. Worse still, it makes me all the more angry and depressed knowing that I can't do anything about it.

The power of this movie lies on its realism. Yes, it's only an animation, but I have never seen a film more realistic than this. The drawings are simplistic, but it has shown deeper emotions than most 3D animations can ever hope to achieve. Setsuko is freakin' adorable. 

No "spoilers alert" needed, the first scene already tells you that Seita dies. So I thought, well, I already know what's gonna happen, I'm prepared for anything. Hah! This movie was patient, the way it was directed, the way the story was told.  There's no melodrama, it's a simple story of survival and bond between siblings. It's so realistic the way human life is portrayed. Setsuko and Seita is how you would expect children (or people) their age would act. You would think you're just watching? Next thing you know, you're already attached to them. That despite of knowing what their fate would be, you would still hope against all hopes that they pull through. And when that dreaded scene happens, it hits you like an incendiary bomb from a B-29 Superfortress. Boom! 


And when I thought I was done crying? There's more where that came from! The floodgates are open! *choke, sob, wallow, sob*

It's also sad, that us humans tend to hold on to trinkets. Sentimental value, we call it. And yet when we die, we leave those things we have kept most of our lives, only to be discarded by those who didn't know better. But to every small trinket, there's a story behind it. What's depressing is that when it's our time to go, these little objects of sentimentalism, the little stories of our life we have kept in a box, would be thrown away as well. Because people would never know its value. Like how that janitor has thrown away the rusty tin can, where Seito's story began.

I would tell you more about it, but I can't. I just can't. My heart feels heavy. This is one of the greatest films (war-themed or not) I've seen, but it's also one of those I won't watch anytime soon (like Bjork's Dancer in the Dark).

My Rating:  4.5/5 - It's a 5/5 but I don't like the way it made me feel. -_- Despite the depressing tone of this movie, I still recommend it to anybody who appreciates great films. Oh, and watch the original audio (with subtitles), nothing against dubbed versions, but I prefer subbed because it feels more authentic.

YOUR POINT OF VIEW: What's your favorite scene?

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  1. This was so compelling, your words, the way you felt this story, I too felt it, and I cried like a baby.

    1. I didn't know my words could be that powerful hehe, and thank you Tabby :)

  2. I watched this movie when I was like nine thinking it would be another cute Studio Ghibli. So wrong. So so wrong. Thinking about it still makes me sad. I would go back and watch it again to be able to appreciate the things I couldn't when I was younger, but I don't think my heart could stand it.

    1. LOL, that must have been traumatizing!

      It really affects me when I see such depiction of human conditions, especially knowing that we could do something about it, as a society/nation I mean. We prioritize matters that further divide us as human beings, and that's a sad reality, one that we cannot change. We could if we want to , but it's as old as humankind itself. Politics is in our blood, in turn, so is poverty and hunger. -_-

  3. Not much words need to be said about this film. Of all the films that I've seen this is one of the few that truly speaks for itself. I think what probably helped [to make it worse] is the fact that it was animated. I just don't think that the same brutality shown could be achieved under normal circumstances (without breaking countless laws, morals, ethics, etc.) and make you believe and feel the same way that GotF did during its hour and a half running time.

    1. Yes I definitely agree! Live action - its special effects, action, even the acting - would have probably distracted us from the emotions that the animations have delivered in a simplistic way. Though I would like to see the live action versions (I've read there were two?) just to see how they are as compared to this one.

  4. This movie was really good but devastating! Never thought an animated movie could affect me. I also recommend the Japanese Live action miniseries. Have your handkerchiefs standing by though. Great review!

    1. I am a bit curious for the live action version, but I dont think my heart is ready for another emotional assault O_O LOL

      thank you for reading!

  5. The live action version made me cry so much more because it was set from another perspective!! Loved both!



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