Howl's Moving Castle and the Long Talk
Am I the only who saw this shot in Howl's Moving Castle and immediately thought of Isao Takahata's film Grave of the Fireflies?
I don't think the war footage is meant to quote or riff Fireflies directly, but it does evoke those memories of Japan's destruction in World War II. These are very specific warnings to his native country, from an artist who witnessed the devestation of war himself. Miyazaki grew up among the rubble and the long struggle of the post-war years, and it's these formative years of his childhood that haunt his heavier, more adult films.
Miyazaki's "serious" work - Horus; Future Boy Conan; Nausicaa; Mononoke; Howl - is his longest-running commentary with his audience. It's that lifetime discussion that gives Howl's Moving Castle much of its depth. And this largely explains why newcomers unfamiliar with the director's long career, especially movie critics, felt lost in the plot. If you're expecting another Walt Disney fairy tale, then you're going to be very quickly overwhelmed.
What is war's impact on a nation? What is the cost of mindless "patriotism?" What ultimate cost will the soldier pay? The question of war, and what it does to us, haunts this film. Miyazaki points one hand toward WWII, the other toward Iraq, and bluntly asks if mankind has learned anything.