When an unconfident young woman is cursed with an old body by a spiteful witch, her only chance of breaking the spell lies with a self-indulgent yet insecure young wizard and his companions in his legged, walking castle.
The Clock family are four-inch-tall people who live anonymously in another family's residence, borrowing simple items to make their home. Life changes for the Clocks when their daughter, Arrietty, is discovered.
A love story between an 18-year-old girl named Sophie, cursed by a witch into an old woman's body, and a magician named Howl. Under the curse, Sophie sets out to seek her fortune, which takes her to Howl's strange moving castle. In the castle, Sophie meets Howl's fire demon, named Karishifâ. Seeing that she is under a curse, the demon makes a deal with Sophie--if she breaks the contract he is under with Howl, then Karushifâ will lift the curse that Sophie is under, and she will return to her 18-year-old shape. Written by
For those who love the book or wondered about it
When I read some four years ago that Diana Wynne Jones had sold the rights for Howl's Moving Castle to a Japanese animator, I wondered. The book (one of my very favorites, which I re-read at least once a year) takes several fairy-tale conventions and merrily turns them upside down. Ms Jones refuses to allow her imagination be neatly pigeonholed as hard sci-fi or straight fantasy, juvenile or adult. This story (as all of her stories) revels in word play. I really wondered how it would all come out translated into Japanese.
I'd never heard of Miyazaki. Then I saw Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, The Cat Returns, and Kiki's Delivery Service. Wow. I think Ms Jones and Mr. Miyazaki must be kindred souls. His movies share a lot with her novels a whimsical sense of humor, impossible to pigeonhole into a category, magic and mischief, and a firm respect for the audience's intelligence. I began to pace the floor in anticipation of the movie.
I saw the movie today. I was not disappointed. The soul of the story is intact, Sophie and Howl and Calcifer are nearly as I imagined them. Yes, there are some plot adjustments. Think of it as the Series 12C version (for those who have read Ms Jones' Chrestomanci books.) The main elements are there, some re-arranged, some changed, yet with a full understanding of the original. Much like the 2004 version of Peter Pan much was changed, but the soul is the same.
For those who wonder, here are the differences between the movie and the novel. I've tried to phrase them carefully to avoid spoilers for either fans of Ms Jones's work who have yet to see the movie, and those who have seen the movie and have yet to read the book:
Why the witch bespells Sophie
Where the door opens when the dial points to black
Sophie's sister Martha, and the plot line involving sister Lettie are not in the movie Mrs. Pentstemmon, Miss Angorian, Mrs. Fairfax are also missing, but elements of each are woven into other characters in the movie Michael (Markl) is a different age The battles magical and military are quite different (but equally spectacular) The dog appears at a different time, with a different, yet just as mysterious, agenda The scarecrow's relationship with Sophie is different Thelevel of technology is different. (I did miss the 7-league boots)
My advice: go see the movie. It's magical and beautiful and funny. Then, if you are a Diana Wynne Jones fan, check out the rest of Miyazaki's films. Now is a great time, as many of his films are available on home DVD. If you are a Miyazaki fan, hie thee to a library or bookstore try Ms Jones' books. (There is a sequel to Howl's Moving Castle Castle in the Air.)
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