For Reel

Whisper of the Heart (1995)
July 19, 2012, 9:07 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Yoshifumi Kondō

Yoshifumi Kondō was primed to become the successor to Studio Ghibli founders Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata before his life was tragically cut short in 1998 due to a ruptured aneurysm. Whisper of the Heart, the only feature that he directed (and the first non-Miyazaki or Takahata film for the studio), shows the remarkable promise of a career that could have been – it is among the studio’s most earthbound efforts, though it enchants all the same through its charming romance between two schoolchildren. To compliment the relatively low-key drama, Kondō uses the questionable device of visualizing a fantasy epic that the young girl is in the process of writing, which follows the adventures of an anthropomorphic cat known as The Baron (seven years later, the character would return in a spin-off feature entitled The Cat Returns). It is fair to suggest that the idea might have stemmed from the anxiety of not being fantastical enough – for a Ghibli effort, it is remarkably minimalist in terms of plot, taking more of an interest in lingering with the characters and uncovering the roots of their youthful optimism. The towering shadow of Ghibli’s similarly reflective masterpiece, Only Yesterday, perhaps makes the misjudged Baron sequences a little less palatable, but nonetheless it is only a small misstep in what is otherwise a refreshingly patient ode to childhood.

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