Tuesday, May 11, 2010

GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES (Japanese) (1988)

How can an animation film short list as one of the Great War films ever made?
Well that’s a stupid question I asked myself before watching this Japanese film. Now, if you are animation film lover and still haven’t watched it than you’re missing the gem of animation. Why gem? Because during my staple diet of watching single film a day I never seen any powerful animation film like this one...it’s as thought provoking and as sentimental as watching one of De Sica’s Neo Realistic cinema; and its not exaggeration. Ask anybody who has watched it. Unlike usual war films it doesn’t portray military tyranny but questions the silent innocent victims of war, showing inevitability of human conflict by human. We won’t wonder why O Henry’s ‘The Gift of Magi’ moved even the president!!!

It’s heart wrenching story set up in the aftermath of Second world war showing us the bonding of a mature brother Seita and her doll like little innocent sister Setsuko. It’s a hopeless situation for Japan as US jets frequently air raiding and destroying villages and towns. The country is passing through great crisis and here’s an orphan brother trying to protect her sister without letting her know about her mother’s death. He’s trying to please her in some of the most frustrating situations. Though he’s not even young enough, he’s behaving like a responsible elder. They shared their moments of crisis, selling and trading every available object for food. They shared their moments of fun, catching fireflies at night or enjoying at beach.

Unlike Hollywood’s larger than life animation, characters here breathe just like human. They look so natural, lifelike and expressive with all little nuances in detail. Attention to craft and design is something which mainstream Hollywood animation is missing so terribly. It’s child centred animation which proclaims Japanese creativity surpassing even live films full of megastars. Visually it’s so rich and aesthetic…the scene where many fireflies illuminating the bed in darkness is something which lingers for long. I’ve to add cute little Setsuko as one of my favorite animation character and she has fine voice over too. Hail to Japanese animation and Director Isao Takahata and his crew for accomplishing such a classic animation cinema.

And I mean it when I’m referring De Sica. Watch the final twenty minutes of the film. It’s a scene where Seita is caught for stealing apples and Setsuko is shouting for her brother. It’s a scene where Setsuko is making fake rice balls in her last stage of illness, and it’s a scene where finally I can’t resist my tears watching Seita offering final rites to her sweet beloved sister. Isn’t that ‘fruit drops tin box’ is brilliant symbol uplifting the whole film from beginning to end like De Sica’s ‘bicycle’.

Need I say ‘Must Watch’?

Ratings- 10/10

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