BLU-RAY Whisper Of The Heart
The works of Studio Ghibli return to the UK on Blu-ray courtesy of Studiocanal, this time with Whisper Of The Heart. Based on the manga of the same name by Aoi Hiiragi, Whisper Of The Heart is the only film to have been directed by Yoshifumi Kondō, who tragically died in 1998.
Middle school student Shizuku Tsukishima is supposed to be studying for her upcoming exams, but instead spends her time either at the library or reading. When she discovers that each book she’s loaned was previously borrowed by a ‘Seiji Amasawa’, she fantasizes about meeting the mysterious person.
At school, Shizuku shows her friend, Yuko, a draft of the song she has been writing for graduation – the Japanese translation of the song is ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’. On the way home, Shizuku realises she left her book at the school. Rushing back, she finds a boy who hands it back to her, commenting on the lyrics she left inside – much to her irritation.
The next day, Shizuku follows a large cat she found travelling on the train to an antiques shop, where she sees a statue of a cat in formal dress that goes by the name Baron Humbert von Jikkingen. After befriending the shop owner, she returns another time to find the shop closed, instead meeting with the boy she met before. Not only is he the owner’s grandson – but also Seiji Amasawa!
From this point onwards, not only do Shizuku’s feeling for Seji emerge, but as she watches him follow his dream of becoming a violin maker, a spark also ignites in her that puts her on the path to becoming a writer…
A lot of Whisper Of The Heart’s charm comes from its realism. Its magic comes from the depth of its characters and the telling of a wholesome coming of age story. While Shizuku and Seiji may fall in love, their relationship is so much more than that. Together, each of their talents drives the other to succeed at their own ambitions. Their meeting is a catalyst for Shizuku to realise her own goals and strive to create something entirely of her own. The film’s message of following your dreams isn’t completely idealistic, and reinforces the notion that while Shizuku forgoes studying, if her plans to be a writer fall through, the only person to blame will be herself. It’s not only about pursuing your goals, but also accepting the consequences that may come because of it.
Eyes are drawn toward the scenery more than ever – and this is only accentuated by the Blu-ray release.
However, the fantasy element that the studio’s more popular works are known for are still on show in Whisper Of The Heart, presented in fleeting dream-like sequences of Shizuku’s imagination as she puts pen to paper. Despite little screen time and being, in reality, just a statue, the image and history of the Baron remain in the memory long after the credits have rolled. His popularity was so great that Ghibli would revisit the character again in 2002’s The Cat Returns.
That being said, it does suffer from a few strange choices in narrative – Shizuku’s parents allowing her to continue with her project at the expense of studying for important exams, despite not being told what exactly what it is at any point in the film (onscreen anyway), seems a little too carefree, and the film’s ending, while sweet, feels a little too ‘perfect’ and abrupt.
The art is of the usual excellent Studio Ghibli quality; however, with this film, eyes are drawn toward the scenery more than ever – and this is only accentuated by the Blu-ray release. The opening pans over Tokyo, not only give a sense of size to the city, but also showcase how different its suburbs are by comparison. The Tsukishima family’s flat is crammed with detail, as is Nisho’s antique shop (including a blink and you’ll miss it reference to an older Ghibli film). Scenes are broken up by footage of Shizuku walking from place to place, giving the animators an opportunity to really show-off the beauty of the landscape they’ve created. While the length of some of these shots could be considered somewhat self-indulgent, when the quality of art is this good, it’s hard to find fault otherwise.
Music is another area where the film shines. While anyone not overly fond of ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ may be put off by its repeated use, it works as an effective plot device, and the Japanese translated version used in the film is nowhere near as bad as one might imagine. Credit should also go to Yūji Nomi’s fantastic score, which helps enrich the experience.
Blu-ray exclusive extras include storyboards and background artwork for the film, along with four ‘masterpieces’ from artist Naohisa Inoue. There is also a ‘Behind The Microphone’ featurette, along with TV spots for the film and trailers for other Ghibli collection releases.
While it may lack the fantastical element that the best known Studio Ghibli works are remembered for, it by no means lacks heart. A seemingly real story of both young love and seizing the opportunity to follow your dreams, Whisper Of The Heart is an often forgotten gem.
See The Film For Yourself!
Release date: 7th June 2010 Certificate: 18 Running
time: 149 mins Director: Jacques Audiard Starring: T…
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