Friday 14 June 2024

The Boy and the Heron [2023]

 What immediately arrests one about The Boy and the Heron – the first film in a decade by legendary octogenarian Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, who came out of his retirement to make this, and the 25th feature production by Studio Ghibli – are its dazzling, painstakingly handcrafted and decidedly anachronistic 2D artwork. Miyazaki was heavily inspired by the 1937 Japanese novel How Do You Live? by Genzaburo Yoshino (the film’s original title is, in fact, a direct nod to the book); he also self-consciously looked back at his own childhood days and filmography while conceiving this story, which made it semi-autobiographical and self-reflexive. It begun against the harrowing backdrop of WW2 as young Hisako loses his mother to a tragic fire accident. As the war rages on, he finds himself displaced to tranquil rural environs when his father, an ecstatic manufacturer of fighter planes for the military, marries his sister-in-law and relocates to her large estate. There, haunted by his memories and engulfed in debilitating grief, Hisako finds himself lost amidst his new mom and a group of eccentric old ladies, and becomes even more withdrawn upon facing bullying at the local school. That’s when he encounters a speaking, anthropomorphic Heron who mocks him out of his stupor and provokes him into a parallel world – filled with blazing phantasmagoria and outlandish creatures – where he must overcome fantastical obstacles to save his old and new moms. Wildly imaginative and heavily metaphorical – especially around its underlying evocations of past, present and future – the film took an uninhibited turn after having begun on a low-key note, which made it seem messy and overdone on occasions, its affecting mix of loss, melancholy and hope notwithstanding.

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Genre: Animation/Fantasy/Adventure/Coming of Age

Language: Japanese

Country: Japan

No comments: