Year of Release: 2013
Director: Isao Takahata
Screenplay: Isao Takahata and Riko Sagacuchi, based on the folk tale The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter
Starring: Aki Asakura, Kengo Kora, Takeo Chii, Nobuko Miyamoto
Running Time: 137 minutes
Genre: Drama, fantasy, animation
This is one of the most beautiful films ever made. made by Japan's legendary Studio Ghibli, and based on the traditional Japanese folk tale, The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, with first appeared in print in the tenth century, and was old even then, the story revolves around an elderly bamboo cutter, Miyatsuko (Chii), who discovers a miniature girl inside a glowing bamboo shoot. Miyatsuko and his wife decide to raise her as their own. The girl grows and learns astonishingly rapidly. Miyatsuko discovers gold, jewels and fine clothes in the bamboo grove, again hidden in glowing shoots. With his new-found wealth, Miyatsuko moves his family to the capital and buys their way into the gentry, having his daughter formally named Princess Kaguya (Asakura). Her astonishing beauty captivates those around her, and Kaguya soon finds herself trapped.
The animation is stunning in beautiful charcoal, crayon, pastel colours, it has the look and feel of traditional Japanese art. The story moves slowly, and has a surprisingly dark conclusion, but it's full of beautiful moments, it looks and feels like a dream, taking the viewer into a remote world. The film constructs the social world of 10th century Japan, but Kaguya is a very modern character, who just wants agency over her own life, and finds herself being thrust into situations by her well-intentioned father, wants to return to the time when she felt truly happy. As with many Studio Ghibli films, this has a real feel for the natural world, and a forgotten rural life.
Possibly too slow and dark for some viewers, if you surrender to this beautiful dream of a film you will be rewarded with one of the most uplifting and devastating experiences you are ever likely to see on screen.