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Monday, August 02, 2010

Grave of the Fireflies

There were the last months of WWII. Large B52 formations were heavily bombing the Japanese cities. A boy of thirteen or so remained with his little sister alone. Her mother didn't survive one of the raids. Their house was destroyed. The father was in the Imperial Navy. No news from him, either, and one needed to understand that his days were from now on counted.

For a while, an aunt took care of the two orphans. The boy did a childish mistake: exasperated by the harshness of the aunt, he decided to take his little sister and go away. They found a tiny shelter lit by the fireflies. It was very romantic at the beginning, but soon the shortages of any kind, especially food, became overwhelming. Eventually the little sister died of continual hunger, and the boy remained alone, with a small tin box: it used to be the box of fireflies the sister had been playing with, it was now keeping the ashes of the little one. It happened exactly the day the war was over.

The boy would die several days later, from exhaustion.

This is the story in the movie. Actually the boy managed to survive, was then raised in an orphanage, and later in life he became a writer. He kept in his soul the guilt of not succeeding to keep his little sister alive, and eventually he told the story in a novel, Grave of the Fireflies (火垂るの墓, Hotaru no Haka). The name of the novelist is Akiyuki Nosaka.

A movie was produced, based on the novel, in 1988. The director, Isao Takahata, made it an anime. As an anime, the viewer is no more caught by the personality of the actors, and gets the story in all its fullness.

The movie was screened only once in DC, at Freer and Sackler. I was living near Washington by that time, so I had the chance to attend the screening.

A movie giving you simply the horrible sense of the war, of any war. Beside patriotism, and heroism, and justice, and injustice, it's that simple: innocent babies die, life goes on.

(Japanese Cinema)


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