Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 188: Saturday July 9

Grave of the Fireflies (Takahata, 1998): Barbican Cinema 4.15pm

A harrowing animated film that looks at war through a child's perspective.

Here is an extract from Tom Huddleston's Classic Film Club review in Time Out. You can read his full appraisal here.

'Grave of the Fireflies is perhaps unique in that the medium of animation in no way softens the events of story. In fact, the opposite is true. Animation allows Takahata to draw performances from his children that no human of equal age could or should be expected to give. His treatment of little Setsuko results in arguably the most realistic four-year-old in cinema, simultaneously curious and wary, playful and serious, exploring her place in the world just as that world is beginning to fall apart. The older Seita feels withdrawn by comparison, though this decision feels wholly intentional and appropriate. This is a boy torn between childhood selfishness and societally imposed feelings of obligation, whose only point of focus becomes the sister he cannot save. And the scenes of Setsuko’s gradual decline would be simply impossible in a live-action context as it would be unwatchable, and with good reason.Visually, the film hews close to the established Ghibli palette, with motionless, often rather crude backgrounds and blurred upfront action. Takahata makes the most of these limitations – often focusing on characters faces in moments of grief or stillness, using the stillness of his backdrops to suggest a blank, unknowable world beyond their grasp – but they remain limitations.

Grave of the Fireflies’ is not a film to be taken lightly. It is not even a film to be enjoyed. It is a film which demands – and deserves – total concentration and emotional surrender. The reward is an experience unlike any other: exhausting, tragic and utterly bleak, but also somehow monumental.' 

Here is the trailer.

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