The core of Studio Ghibli’s work is to create art with a lifeforce. Their hyper stylised characters almost seem to have a pulse, a soul. You feel like you can reach into the screen and touch the weather-beaten walls of Ghibli’s citadels.
I am just starting out on my journey into the Studio Ghibli back catalogue in an attempt to fill the gaps of my film knowledge. ‘Castle in the Sky’ is the first of their films I have seen, here are my thoughts.
When the world has you weary, Ghibli give you a new one to escape into. This escapist quality is present in spades here. The introduction immediately pulls you into a fantasy environment.
We are first greeted by a deep blue, cloud filled sky. A dreadnought airship lumbers through the frame, it looks absurdly out of place in the sky given its mass. The first scene is a perfect example of how Miyazaki combines evocative lighting, charismatic voices and imaginative design; creating an arresting experience.
The action of ‘Castle in the Sky’ is fluid and punchy. Every character is designed individually, just like in a live-action flick, nobody looks the same. I love the world design. Pazu’s home is a blend of various influences from times and locations, this adds to the feeling of adventure.
The clothes that Pazu and Sheeta wear when they are on the run look like that of a refugee, this is appropriate as they are running from a conflict which has global implications. Details such as this have a huge effect on the tone.
The stand-out characters have got to be Muska, the arch villain played by Mark Hamill and Uncle Pom, voiced by Richard Dysart. Pom is portrayed with feeling and Muska, with menace. Hamill is of course a voice acting master.
The writing leaves so much intriguing detail beneath the surface. Despite the incredible sights of its world, the movie’s real wonders are found within its characters.
When the characters finally reach Luputa, it is revealed to be hauntingly beautiful. Luputa is perhaps a symbol of the afterlife. It could be that the travellers who step foot on Luputa died in the stormy skies. Pazu even sees his father when they are crossing over.
The villain’s ambitions then, are essentially to break into heaven, steal its secrets and preside as a malevolent god. He even quotes the parable of Sodom and Gomorrah before firebombing a town.
This one has all of the classic ingredients and tropes of a grand adventure. Allegiances change and we are taken on a journey to epic locations and beyond.
‘Castle in the Sky’ was my first introduction to Studio Ghibli. It was great escapism, albeit with a dip in pace during act two. I am sure there are even better Ghibli films, I am excited to see what is in store.