Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Secret World of Arietty

My daughter and I went with friends yesterday to see this Studio Ghibli gem. We are big fans of Miyazake, so we leapt at the chance to see Arietty in theaters.

The last Ghibli movie we saw on the big screen was Ponyo. It had received rave reviews, and I was excited to watch it. Honestly, I was a bit disappointed by Ponyo. The subject was so large and over-reaching that the Ghibli magic was a bit lost, even though the production was, as always, gorgeous.

But I prefer Miyazake's simpler stories: Totoro, in which two sisters try and get along while their mother is in hospital, and Kiki's Delivery Service, about a young witch setting up her own business.

Arietty was one of these. The story was simple: there is a family of small people ("Borrowers") who live beneath the floor of a house where a sick boy is staying for a week before his heart operation. The Borrowers are wary of humans, whom they call "Beens," and when the daughter, Arietty, is spotted by the boy, the family feels they have to move.

It's very simple, but the animation is lush and breathtaking. The movement of a small Borrower climbing an ivy-covered house, the way the Borrowers climb with tools like fishhooks and earrings, and Arietty's bedroom are gorgeous. I won't give away the ending, but it is beautiful too, and touching. 
Arietty's bedroom. I want to live here!

I read the Borrower books, and Miyazake shortened the story. It doesn't lose at all in the process. (I actually enjoyed Howl's Moving Castle more as a Ghibli movie than as a book; I'm a huge Diana Wynne Jones fan, but sometimes the reaction to her stories is - "Huh?") If you haven't read the books, do go and find them to read. The Borrowers' world is detailed by master storyteller Mary Norton, who thought of such things for her little people to use as "The Scissor," one blade of a pair of scissors. 

Small kids and adults will love this movie. The fact that the boy has to have an operation could be upsetting for very young children, although it might foster some interesting conversations with older ones. As for my daughter, she watched the movie with wide eyes, and at the end her first question was, "Can we buy the DVD?"

Actually, you can get the DVD, but the voice actors are English. the version we watched had Bridgit Mendler, the actress from Good Luck Charlie, voicing the part of Arietty. I thought she did a fine job, and Genna was more than happy with it. I assume that version will be out in a few months. 

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