Whisper of the Heart (film)

Whisper of the Heart (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The wonderful Whisper of the Heart (aka Mimi o Sumaseba or “if you listen closely”) is tragically the only film that Yoshifumi Kondo directed before his death in 1998.

I sometimes look at Whisper of the Heart and wonder what might have been [1] had this gentleman lived to create more films [2].

This is a gentle, intimate movie of a young girl discovering both her first love, and her first real dream at the same time.

Seiji’s solid dream of becoming a master luthier challenges Shizuku to find her own dream and her own future.

Her oddball, but deeply loving, family help make the film resonate at a deeply emotional level. The gentle librarian father, the mother completing her Masters’ degree, and the increasingly independent elder sister, are all well realised and provide a solid stage for the film to rest on.

They also provide a context for Shizuko’s independence, her initial lack of direction, and her terrifying focus once Shizuko becomes determined to write her novel Whisper of the Heart.

There are some minor distractions [3] in terms of classic middle/high school romance tropes [4], but these are mostly there to frame Shizuku’s confusion, and initial lack of direction. They aren’t overdone, and work nicely in context.

One thing I really appreciated this time was the honest assessment of Shizuku’s writing by Seiji’s grandfather and the gently positive way he managed to deliver it. The analogy of describing Shizuku’s writing as an unpolished, unfaceted gemstone that holds the potential for great beauty later was beautifully done.

Adding this realism to the film actually makes the acceptance of Shizuku’s story more emotional, and more satisfying. This also makes Shizuku’s new-found determination to finish high school all the more believable: she needs the tools of a writer, and high school is a conveniently free way to get them.

I see that I haven’t mentioned the riffs on Country Road as performed in the opening by Olivia Newton John, and then translated by Shizuku for the Chorus Club. This was an inspired piece of scripting that made the film fun from the get go. I remember watching this for the first time at JAFWA and you could almost feel the smiles starting in the darkened lecture theatre when that surprise hit us.

Whisper of the Heart is close to being my favourite Studio Ghibli, and it would not surprise me to find that is the favourite for a significant number of fans.

Oh, and it looks great on the Madman Blurays that were released recently.

Day 1 – New Kimagure Orange Road: Summer’s Beginning (1996)
Day 2 – Naruto Shippuden The Movie (2002)
Day 3 – Galaxy Express 999 (1979)
Day 4 – Steamboy (2004)
Day 5 – Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer (1984)
Day 6 – Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)
Day 7 – Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
Day 8 – Ah! My Goddess: The Movie (2000)
Day 9 – Summer Wars (2009)
Day 10 – Macross: Do You Remember Love? (1984)
Day 11 – Silent Mobius I (1991) & II (1992)
Day 12 – Space Firebird 2772 (1980)
Day 13 – Junkers Come Here (1994)
Day 14 – Whisper of the Heart (1995)
Day 15 – ???
Day 16 – ???
Day 17 – ???
Day 18 – ???
Day 19 – ???
Day 20 – ???

[1] I suspect that I’m not alone in this.

[2] In a way it calls to mind the Morpheus’ library in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman that contained every book never written. Did Morpheus also have film library of every film never made?

[3] One of which is nicely wrapped up in the end credits if you’re paying attention.

[4] The usual sort of thing: Bob likes Alice (who isn’t interested) and her best friend Carol is deeply crushing on Bob. You know how it goes. 🙂