|"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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