2-8 August 2013 #667

The Secret World of Arrietty

A film as lovely as a fresh monsoon breeze
Sophia Pande

Remember when you were a kid and you could spend hours daydreaming, your mind embarking on various, vivid adventures that took you to the most exciting, mostly fictitious places? Well, you can still enjoy that kind of adventure, the kind your adult imagination will no longer allow you, when you start a film, any film, by Hayao Miyazaki’s famed Studio Ghibli.

Over the years, Miyazaki has made a number of masterpieces. And while all of his films are animated, do not think for a moment that this factor makes them any less great than the very best so called ‘high-brow’ cinema. Miyazaki started working in the early 1960s, in manga as well as in animation. In 1984 when his film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind became a surprise hit, he established Studio Ghibli, which has since produced film after brilliant film.

To the faithful followers of Miyazaki the names My Neighbour Totoro (1988), Princess Mononoke (1997), Spirited Away (2001), Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), and Ponyo (2008) will bring back memories of stories that will continue to capture your heart and imagination over the course of your entire lifetime. To the people who have never heard of him, or have but have somehow passed him by, pick up any of these films immediately; you will not be disappointed.

Miyazaki’s films work, like the best children’s books, on several levels. While the animation aspect affects the sublime part of children’s minds, the complex stories and characters are firmly for the adults. As for myself, I have never been able to pick a favourite, but I do have a special place in my heart for Howl’s Moving Castle, perhaps because the very charming and intrepid female lead is called Sophie.

So, you may ask, what exactly is it about Miyazaki’s films that make them so special. Well, they are special because they are truly magical. His stories and his animation transcend reality, his characters are utterly captivating, and he is never didactic, always surprising his viewers with his depictions of good vs evil (there are always ‘baddies’ in the Miyazaki films who redeem themselves, often most hilariously and sometimes very touchingly).

For everyone who loves those children who are always a little wiser than their age, animals, and, yes, I know I said it before, magic, then pick up The Secret World of Arrietty (2010). While Miyazaki only scripted this film, making way at the grand old age of 69 (he is now 72) for younger blood, this film is as lovely as a fresh monsoon breeze.

Arrietty (voiced by Saoirse Ronan) is a ‘borrower’, a tiny human girl who lives among us gigantic humans borrowing little things like sugar cubes here and there for their families. When a young boy called Shô (Tom Holland) arrives to recuperate in his pastoral family home (he has a heart condition), Arrietty and he strike up an unusual friendship that is aided by his grandmother Sadako (Phyllida Law), and alternately foiled by Arrietty’s parents’ disapproval, and the presence of a rather cute, but initially quite vicious family cat.

As their friendship deepens, and Niyu, the cat has a change of heart, Arrietty and Shô come of age amongst the luscious nature of Shô’s home - both realising, painfully, that their friendship can only be ephemeral.

And so The Secret World of Arrietty joins the ranks of all the other special Studio Ghibli works, making your children think, and taking you back to those days when you could believe in anything and the power of your imagination was your most precious resource.

Watch trailer :