The Clock Family – Homily, Pod and Arriety
For generations of British children, Mary Norton’s book The Borrowers has been a beloved part of childhood reading. But filmed versions do not always fare so well. The BBC came closest to getting it right with a well cast and charmingly produced version in 1992, but the abominable 1997 movie with John Goodman and a cast of horrendously ugly Borrowers was rightly consigned to oblivion.
Now comes Kari-gurashi no Arietti from Japan’s master film maker Hayao Miyazaki. The perfection of this production makes it hard to find words – the delicacy of the artwork, the sheer beauty of the world created for the film, the depth of characterization – make this, for me at least, the definitive movie version of The Borrowers. Nothing will ever surpass this.
Arietty meets her first ‘human bean’, the boy Sho
Of course, the story is now set in Japan instead of Britain, just as Howl’s Moving Castle was taken out of its Welsh setting into something altogether more dreamlike – this ‘Myazakiworld’ makes the ordinary extraordinary, shows the magic in everday life, where wonders and miracles are as ordinary as rain and wind.
The story is pretty much the same. A boy who has been ill comes to the countryside to recuperate, and meets Arietty, one of a family of tiny ‘borrowers’ living under tjhe house with her father Pod and mother Homily. A beautiful friendship grows between these two, but it is threatened by the over reactions of adults – whether tall or small, they do tend to over react.
Myazaki’s genius is not just in the story telling, the characterization, the blending of art and magic that is so uniquely Studio Ghibli, but also in the details. The world that the tiny Borrowers inhabit is beautifully crafted – Arietty discovers a dressmaking pin (the kind with a blob of pearly plastic on the end, the kind I use) and slides it through her dress as a sword; Pod engineers a series of ingenious pulleys and lifts to get into the main house; and Arietty brings Homily one leaf of a herb plant, enough to last for ages. Every time I see this film I find new details to marvel over.
The Borrowers Afloat, in a tea pot
Nothing has been spared – even famed actor Tatsuya Fujiwara has a cameo speaking role as Spiller that consists mostly of growls and grunts (but naturally he is the one who gets the girl) and every frame is a work of art in its own right.
Another triumph for Studio Ghibli.