Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru no haka)
Another of Ghibli’s fine adaptations, Grave of the Fireflies jostled for position at number five with the films now at six and seven, which I’m planning to add to this list later. Based on Akiyuki Nosakai’s novel, the film is the darkest of Ghibli films produced to date and is, in a word or two, heart-wrenching. I’ve actually only been able to watch it three times so far – it really puts me through the wringer.
Isao Takahata’s best known film, it shows the struggle of siblings Seita and Setsuko during and after the bombing of Kobe in 1945. I won’t go into the plot here, but instead mention that the charactarisation is powerful and their reactions to war and injustice is moving.
The animation is harrowing too, a very red, orange and brown palette is used to great effect, and even with the moments of lightness, I think of the film as one long night in their lives. Even with their little triumphs and joys, such as their time at the beach or the all-important tin of sweets, the film is ominous.And well it should be, perhaps, considering the subject. Often described as an anti-war film, something the director does not necessarily agree with, I think I remember reading Takahata describe the film as a warning against pride. I hope that’s as I remember it, I wish I could find the quote but instead, here’s a great discussion at the Cinema Sanctum blog.
Whatever your view on Grave of the Fireflies’ main theme, this is a film you should one day see, a true classic of the animation genre.
Stay tuned for the two extra posts in the list!