Howl’s Moving Castle is a film by Hayao Miyazaki, and it follows the life of a young girl who is a hat-maker to many learning experiences, emotional involvements, and physical (laborious) journeys. She starts off as a simple hat maker before trouble befalls her and meets a witch who makes her into an old woman. She runs off to try and reverse the spell, meeting a man and his friends, from inside a moving castle, who journeys together, overcoming all obstacles, and finding her true self again.
This movie is mainly focusing on the physical journey, but at the same time, the characters experience not only physical journeys, but also emotional and inner journeys of learning, and developing many feelings toward other people. In the main character’s perspective, the setting shows what a journey of a life she has had so far, and up to what stage of life she is in – ‘time’ being the key word in this journey, since she very soon meets a woman during a windy, stormy, dark-lighting, night, who curses her into being an old woman, with no time passing for her.
And so, in this fashion, she re-meets Howl, the person who once saved her from some ‘blob men’ who were chasing her. Upon meeting him, her path on her journey changes once again – from something of no hope (grayscale), to something that gave her hope, and will eventually restore her (colourful). On the moving castle, she meets many friends. Not only that, but she also finds knobs that transport her to different places once she exits the door, but she is prohibited from going to the one black knob.
Her journey does not come across that one knob until near the ending, where, once she turns to that knob and exits, she is not only transferred through space, but also time, and into someone else’s life: Howl’s past. The non-diegetic music also helps lead into the journey, and also helps to create a change of setting. By learning of his journey about how he transformed from that kid, to that present self, she finds out to save him, save his friends, herself, and most importantly also her enemies.
This movie is extremely helpful towards the concept of journey as all the characters in it have shown a glimpse (sometimes more) of their journey to the viewer, and allows the audience to empathise with the characters. Taking a step back though, you can really see how their past, present and future journeys are all integrated with each other, influencing and intertwining each other character’s journeys too, like an unbreakable web of chains.
Howl’s Moving Castle is similar to The Shawshank Redemption, as it is a film, but not only is it because of it being this text type, but also further represents how journeys are linked together. For Howl’s Moving Castle, things are rehashed from the past, inside the ‘present’ of this movie, but for Shawshank, Andy never had connections with the other convicts, nor did they before the crime was committed and they were sent there. The differences range from: one being a fairy-tale world, the other being like a nightmare; and to, most importantly, the environment.
The atmosphere and tone influence the emotions of the characters involved as well as the way their journeys turned out, and through which road: in Howl’s Moving Castle, the girl had to save the others, who then in turn, saved her; in Shawshank however, Andy saved himself, and before he’d escaped, he’d influenced others to be safe and hope – although both the endings were implied to be joyous. Also, whilst in Howl’s Moving Castle, there is a lot of physical journey in terms of travelling, in Shawshank, everyone remains inside the prison, unable (or sometimes unwilling) to go out.
In both films, the themes of hope and determination are prominent to the journey, although the different personas act and react in different ways. This reinforces the concept that no person’s journey is identical, although it can be similar. Both films are important to the journey, as it emphasises that no matter in which situation, you can still strive for an ultimate good result, and sometimes it is possible to achieve it.
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