Edinburgh Cinema

Edinburgh’s cinemas have their own, different feel. When I visit them, I’ll be writing about both the film and the place, giving you the organic experience. Film critics on the big scale can’t really cater for this, so I hope my reviews bring something extra in this respect.

Howl's Moving Castle


Howl's Moving Castle

Imagine a fairy tale Europe where the world wars never happened, a steampunk Europe of pre-war Dresden, Krakow, Paris, Budapest, et al, merged into one of narrow cobbled streets and wooden-beamed buildings and courtyards of different colours; imagine Hanseatic harbours of tall gables and market stalls with azure seas. Imagine finally mountainous meadows carpeted with flowers that glisten like jewels. These are the settings for Howl's Moving Castle, another masterpiece in Miyazaki aesthetic that conjures a range of paradises both pastoral and urban. The landscapes and townscapes which channel these scenes are the film's sumptuous highlight, and underscore Miyazaki's main theme and ultimate villain in the story: the self-harming destruction of war and what is lost as a consequence. Typically for Miyazaki, therefore, the setting and the purpose is carefully considered.

But the story, meanwhile? It peters out for me, as something purposeful, two thirds of the way through. This isn't just down to my own lack of concentration; I've watched this film on different occasions and still am not sure what to make of the ending, where a dozen loose ends are tied up promptly in saccharine comfort. A war that was tearing up the towns and burning the skies is suddenly brought to a close with the order of a high-ranking witch; a benevolent, silent scarecrow is revealed as a bewitched missing prince whose absence is meant to have been important, but will pass you unnoticed as a plot thread. The arc of the handsome wizard Howl is also confusing: towards the end, the heroine, Sophie, witnesses the secret to his power in a recreated memory, involving a falling star; yet it's also suggested that under the surface of his feminine beauty, Howl is actually an eagle-like monster. The plot, it must be concluded, is poorly signposted, and as Howl's wondrous castle begins to fall apart in the final sequence, it could be suggested that this is an apt metaphor for the movie as a whole.

But should this matter? With Miyazaki's films, it's the artistic settings that stick in the mind and bewitch you. Howl's castle, in particular, is a thing of fascination: a steam driven, magically assembled creature of balconies and breath-taking views; it roams the alpine settings, emerging and submerging in the mountain mists, and possesses a doorway to four possible locations, depending on which colour the dial is turned. It was this doorway, and these locations, that spoke to me most, as if based on the Freudian psyche of Superego (the towns and cities of social construction), ego (the countryside of our freedom of choice) and id (the black, raging war zone of trauma and monsters in this animated movie). Interesting too is the dialled location that opens up to a dark, rainy nothingness, to my mind an evocation of the Lacanian realm of the Real, where language ceases to exist.

It's with the recognition of this Freudian/Lacanian presence in the scenery that the truth emerges from a critical perspective, and where my review feels strangely uninformative. In trying to reflect on the characters and the plot, I've relied on description instead of analysis. This isn't out of choice; it's because the most psychologically complex and politicised issues emerge not in the characters or the plot, but the scenery. I think I'll leave this review as it is, accordingly, in spite of its overly descriptive nature, as a reminder that to appreciate the work of certain artists, including Miyazaki, the danger is in looking in the wrong places.
A Quiet Place
Ready Player One


No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Friday, 22 January 2021

Captcha Image

What's On This Week

My Latest Posts

December 22, 2020

Lacanian Icarus: when Gina flew too close to the sun?

On the recent experience of nearly being no-platformed There are two identities in one when it comes to being part of a disempowered minority. The first is for yourself: all your failings, your insecurities, your doubts, and connected to this, your curiosity and quirks. Let's be Lacanian analysts for a moment: what we're talking about is the transg...
November 17, 2020

If I were to detransition, this is what I would write

Warning: this is a speculative piece of writing, not an official announcement, although I have recently begun to imagine an 'ideological' detransition (from trans woman to GNC male). Here, I'm trying to articulate and reflect on my thoughts and feelings, and imagining myself from a different perspective. In this post, I'm Gina v...
November 17, 2020

Trans Hell-thcare

The picture accompanying this post is important to me. I took it yesterday, 16 November 2020, unsure what I'd find. It's been nearly eleven months since I came off oestrogen for reasons I'll get into in a moment. Undoubtedly this has had an effect on me, bodily and therefore psychologically, but the accompanying selfie gives me a reassura...
October 17, 2020

What if gender-critical feminism came to power?

This scenario is inspired by a dialogue I had yesterday evening with a gender-critical feminist just before I went to bed. Here is what I dreamed: In the summer of 2021, the Conservative minister Liz Truss introduces legislation, making women-only spaces legally accessible only to those born female. This U.K. law includes a provision for funding al...
October 13, 2020

Responses to my blog post (1)

A frustrating aspect of my website is that when people write in, there's no trace of an email address so no way of getting back to people, and also no way of publishing their messages. However, I received such a nice response to my article just now that I'd like to include it here. It's from some who for the sake of confidentiality (in case it's ne...
October 11, 2020

On adopting a more gender-critical transgender activism

On adopting a more gender-critical transgender activism Note to the reader: This post is intended as a contribution to addressing the current tensions between transgender activism and gender-critical feminism. The way I see myself in relation to female i dentity, and the ideas I express here, are not a prescription for other trans women. The t...
May 11, 2020

The Book of Queer Prophets, curated by Ruth Hunt

in Books

  The Book of Queer Prophets: 24 Writers on Sexuality and Religion The historically fraught relationship between Abrahamic religions and LGBT+ identities provides the backdrop to The Book of Queer Prophets , a collection of twenty-four meditations by public figures who identify as both religious and LGBT+. The book's curator, the for...
May 09, 2020

Queer/Transgender short film: Mesmeralda

Joshua Matteo's short film, Mesmeralda , merging horror with esoterica, is now out on youtube . As with his previous work Metanoia , we see youthful trans actors racing through the empty streets of a moonlit New York, haunted by symbols and stalked by a masked figure of violent intentions. Mesmeralda , as described by Matteo, is the companion ...
March 08, 2020

Sterile like the moon: the joys of transgender healthcare

Sterile like the moon: the joys of transgender healthcare Summer, 2016: Gina's Big Bang, as transitioning begins A bureaucratic question in a sun-lit room. My medical practitioner asks me if I intend to have children. The question lingers, but the self-loathing is instant. No, I won't be having children. The practitioner nods. She moves on to the n...