I’m the type of person that likes to get overwhelmed with movies. I enjoy it, especially if I cry once or twice… Personally I think it is one of the best things that can ever happen to a person in the curse of his life; to allowed a story to touch his heart in such a way, it’s changed forever. These are not JUST pretty words, it’s true, this is the way I truly feel.
Last month I did something that goes against my own set of rules for this Blog -not that I have to schematically follow these “rules” but it’s important to have a plan and to stick with it. Sometimes, however, you must give room to unpredictability- I talked about a movie I have never seen before (You should know, I only post movies I have seen more than once, that is, movies I particularly own and so on), Requiem For a Dream. I repeat; I will never see it, never… never, I’ll never see this movie, never… I’ll never see this movie, I’ll never see this movie… never, I’m telling you, never… never… I’ll never see it, never. Okay! I got that out of my chest, great. The reason why I won’t see it is because, it’s juts too sad. It will haunt me for a month, and literally make me sad to the point where I will be so gloomy, it will affect not just me but others around me. I’m sure about this, it has happened before. And the movie I attribute this wishy-washy outburst of praise and hate is; Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru No Haka).
Written and directed by Isao Takahata, Grave of the Fireflies was adapted from the semi-autobiographical novel by Akiyuki Nosaka. Set in World War II Japan, the story is a flashback narrated by Seita who is sitting on the floor of a train station, and follows the siblings as they struggle to survive after they become orphaned during the Kobe firebombing.
Seita and Setsuko (Seita’s little sister) managed to survive the firebombing in their neighborhood, and travel to another city to live with an aunt. There, even though they have a roof to shelter themselves from cold and food, after a while, the aunt becomes a bully, complaining about how they don’t contribute with any money towards the food expenses nor do any labor around the house to help. She continues claiming they are not appreciative and that they have taken advantage of her welcoming them in her house. Seita decides to leave, and with Setsuko, together they go off to live in an abandoned shelter.
In the shelter Seita and Setsuko capture fireflies and use them as lantern at night, but later the fireflies die and Setusko is sadden. She cries as she buries them, wondering why they had to die, just like her mother. Here is where things start turning for the worse as Seita and Setsuko run out of supplies and while Seita is forced to acquire food by any means Setsuko stays at the shelter growing increasingly ill from malnutrition. After taking her to a doctor and not getting much help, Seita decides to use their last resource, the little bit of money their mother had left them. He withdraws all the money from the bank, and buys food, and a watermelon for his little sister. When Seita returns to the abandoned shelter, he finds a dying Setsuko, hallucinating. He cremates Setsuko with help of a farmer, and then leaves carrying some of his little sister’s ashes on a tint and a picture of his father who died in the war. The flashback ends and the story goes back to the boy we first see at the beginning of the movie; Seita, dying on the floor of a train station. Out of the tint comes his and Setsuko’s spirit, clean and well dressed; this is the last image we have of them.
I don’t want to get into the interpretation of the title nor the film in its entirety because I just can’t help but be sad… and get sadder. For a long time I thought it was a fictional story, but as it turns out, it is a semi-autobiography of the author and his little sister who died of malnutrition during 1945. The author wrote the story in a way to apologise to his sister, as he blames himself for her death, and also to come to terms with it. I find this to be one of the most beautiful gestures. Tonight I have managed to finally write about this movie, and express (even if a little suppressed) my feelings for it in a way other than crying.
The film received positive critique. It was even compared to Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. truthfully, this story is one of the most powerful stories I have come across. If you decide to watch it (mind you, the film is extraordinary) I suggest you stop by the store first and get yourself 10 boxes of tissue, and -forget the eye drops- a basin full of water. I find water to be very refreshing on my eyes after I have been crying for hours.