79-year-old Isao Takahata’s latest, and rumoured last, film from Studio Ghibli is one that can and should be enjoyed by many. The Tale of The Princess Kaguya quite literally strokes and sweeps its way into your thoughts and is hard to brush back out again.
Centred entirely on a young girl who was found by a bamboo cutter in the stalk of a bamboo shoot as a child, there is much emphasis throughout the film on the difficulty of growing up and acceptance. As ‘Little Bamboo’ begins to make friends, a whisper of nostalgia edges across the screen. An almost coming of age tale based on an incredibly old Japanese folk story, Princess Kaguya often tugs at the heartstrings of adults and children alike. By embellishing the plotline with moments of mirth, parents and grandparents will both chuckle as Kaguya first learns to walk. The frame lingers often for just that extra second, causing the audience to ponder the situations on screen. Being made to pay attention to these situations, you become completely encapsulated.
The films second half battles tradition and freedom of choice brilliantly in such a way that most Disney animations could only dream of accomplishing. When Kaguya is made to choose a suitor to be her husband, she simply refuses and states that she doesn’t wish to marry. Although many films have done this before, Princess Kaguya adds particular originality to the subject by using some considerably dark undertones. In one distinctly striking moment, she declares that if she is made to choose a suitor, she will kill herself. Although this may seem a drastic action, it’s entirely fitting with the overall mood of the film. Takahata’s previous Grave of the Fireflies springs to mind with its similar sombre tones, making both of these films play with what’s expected from a feature family animation.
The Tale of The Princess Kaguya is in no doubt beautiful; sometimes the simplistic frames hold a certain elegance whilst other times chaotic brush strokes are used in contrast. The film has an overall natural look to its world of motion in comparison to previous Ghibli ventures. Princess Kaguya takes a totally different approach from the usual deep black outlines and bold colours, instead choosing softer, lighter colours. In one completely exhilarating scene, Kaguya runs away from a celebration party in which the animation itself reverts back to the drawing board; the details become less extravagant and the outlines less pronounced, thus the motion suddenly draws you in. You become completely entranced by the few brush strokes on screen and herein lays the film’s success. By making the most difficult animation look simplistic, Takahata and the filmmakers have achieved greatness in an organic, exquisite film that may leave you feeling slightly melancholy but elated at having experienced something that’s wholly enchanting.
Unfortunately my local cinema was screening the English dubbed version of Princess Kaguya with Chloë Grace Mortez and James Caan. Although I enjoyed this version immensely, I highly recommend that you see the film with its original audio.
Did you enjoy The Tale of The Princess Kaguya?
Comment with your thoughts.
– Ben Reynolds