There is something about the work that comes out of Studio Ghibli that just makes me smile. There’s also a lot to be said for good old-fashioned feel good movies. In the animated films from Studio Ghibli, you can expect beautiful art, beautiful music, and classical fairy-tale type stories. “Laputa – Castle in the sky” is no exception.
Made in 1986, the story follows a young girl who possesses a magic crystal pendant, and a boy who befriends her. The crystal is the key to unlocking the secrets of the floating island of Laputa, and unscrupulous people want to gain control of its power (mainly its weapons) for their own ends.
The director, Hayao Miyazaki, is the co-founder of Studio Ghibli, and is the creative genius behind its best-loved work. His stories often have recurring themes, and “Laputa” illustrates the theme of living in harmony with nature. A minor character says that the power of Laputa must be used in harmony with the earth, and for good, otherwise it turns inward and becomes destructive. This is borne out by the subsequent actions of the antagonist, further illustrated by his disdain of the overgrowth of trees and plants into all the mechanisms he wants to access.
Flying scenes, and the beauty of flight, are a staple in Myazaki’s movies. Many of the films have at least some part that is to do with flying, and of course there are many scenes of “Laputa” that take place in the air. I like the scenes best where there is no engine sound – for example when the hero and heroine are attached to the kite and gliding. There’s a peace and tranquillity in this and similar scenes that I love. There’s something clean about it, being up in the air and removed from the dross of the world below. This is in keeping with the innocence of the protagonists, and their innocent love for each other (clearly shown without a single kiss required.)
The music for this film, composed by Joe Hisaishi, is perfect at every point. There’s a lot of piano, which suits the lyrical, fairy-tale quality of the film. The film is steampunk in its appearance and technology, another semi-regular aspect of Ghibli films. Steampunk is always fun, incorporating nineteenth century style dress and society with steam powered technology taken to its extreme (such as the flying ships in “Laputa”.)
There is some criticism that this film is more westernised than later ones Myazaki has made. It would be foolish to regard this as simple marketing, however, because Myazaki himself has spoken of how he visited Wales in the aftermath of the miners strike of the early 80s. He had a great admiration for the struggle of these people to protect their jobs and homes, and this is what he put into his film, hence the so-called westernization.
I would strongly recommend this film to adults and children alike. It will put a smile on your face.
(Clicking on the link below will take you to Fishpond, a website where you can buy this wonderful film on DVD).