Whispers of the Heart

Whispers of the Heart July 11, 2012

As a bibliphile I miss the almost total lack of fellow book lovers in the movies.  Sure books are sometimes part of the plot, but usually they are a means to an end to obtain some specific knowledge to move the plot.  The actual love of reading just doesn’t come through in the movies I have seen.

Well that was until I recently watched “Whispers of the Heart” which was directed by the late Yoshifumi Kondô. I was already a fan of him for his work in animation for Studio Ghibli and this is the only movie he directed for them. I had never heard of this film until it was recently mentioned by Stephen D. Greydanus at I loved just about everything about this movie.

A young girl finds that all the books she chooses in the library have been previously checked out by the same boy

Finally I found a movie that has some sense of the love of books that I have. The girl Shizuku spends so much time reading and haunting libraries. Her excessive reading even interferes with her schoolwork. I reminded myself when I had even skipped classes in High School so that I could just go somewhere and read. Usually it is assumed that just being bookish will make you a great student. There is also a love of books within her family and I just loved all the books stacked everywhere in their house.

The basic plot also reminded me of the days before computerized tracking of library books that the checkout card in the back of the book would list the people who checked it out before. It was fun to look over those names of strangers and have a strange solidarity with them.

Even considering the high quality of animation for Studio Ghibli, I found this movie exceptional in the detail like in the earlier days of Disney. Often I wanted to pause the film just to be able to look around the scene and take it all in. As much as I love computer animation and the quality of Pixar, this movie reminded me that it is a real loss that animation of this type is becoming rare.

There is one scene involving Shizuku, an aspiring writer, who gets an explanation from a grandfatherly figure about the craft of writing using the example of a geode. This was just a perfect though-provoking example and an example that applies to other crafts. There was a “follow your dreams” subplot to the story that wasn’t superficial like we usually find in that serious commitment was required in perfecting your art. This applies both to the girl and the boy who was reading the same books.

I really wish I had the skills of a film critic to really be able to point out all the reasons I so loved this movie. So much of this movie is trying to struggle out of me to find expression.

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