EMINE – ‘Princess Kaguya’: Beauty in its simplest form

‘Princess Kaguya’: Beauty in its simplest formStudio Ghibli’s lustrous new animation “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya,” which opened in Turkish cinemas on Friday, took its director Isao Takahata eight years to make. Drawn and assembled in an old-school form of animation, this lovely story illustrated by pastel water colors that reminds one of ancient Japanese scrolls is an adaptation of the 10th-century Japanese folk tale called “Taketori monogatari,” which follows the life and times of a princess from the moon as she experiences life on earth.

A surreal and symbolic tale that has a very strong theme of the clash of natural beauty and artifice, this is a film that captures and seduces viewers from any age group or background. Perhaps this is why Studio Ghibli is still one of the most-renowned animation studios in the world, not just because of the company’s know-how and craftsmanship but also because of their very humane, unique storytelling that is beyond the confines of any place, time or specific group of peoples.

The elderly bamboo-cutter Okina lives with his wife in the outskirts of the forest. They have no children but are happy in their humble life.

One day, as Okina is going about his normal bamboo cutting, he notices a bamboo shine with white light it is almost ethereal. He goes to the bamboo, and suddenly a miniature girl, the size of a hand, is literally born from the stem of the plant.

The tiny girl, who looks like the cutest thing one could ever see, is dressed in regal clothes. What is she? Why did she com? These questions do not bother the old man.

He is just completely elated by the arrival of this angelic girl. Okina and his wife adopt the child, and watch her as she grows up at astronomical speed.

She is a happy child, full of light and love, frolicking in the woods playfully, in tune with her surroundings. It is almost as if she is truly the child of nature.

She befriends a couple of kids from the village, and becomes especially close with the young hunter boy Sutemaru. All the little girl can think about is roaming in the forests with her friends and the handsome hunter boy.

But when Okina discovers that the bamboos bequeath him with infinite tokens of gold and imperial clothes for the girl, he comes to believe that she is destined for greater things and not this unremarkable rugged life away from high society. Against her wishes, her adoptive parents move to the capital, Kyoto, and buy a grand, stately home close to the imperial quarters.

Okina is obsessed he wants his daughter to marry into royalty and become a “proper” lady in the traditional sense. He hires a governess who will educate her in the ways of etiquette and art, but Kaguya is extremely unhappy.

Although she excels in every skill and craft she is taught, she consistently questions the meaning of her new rich, glamorous and artificial life, as she longs for the simplicity of the forest and her true friends. When five suitors arrive at the door of the mansion, she gives them impossible tasks to win her heart and deserve marriage.

The journeys of these five men are illustrated in an epic fashion, each in their own sequences beautifully drawn and edited. None of them will attain her hand in marriage, to the chagrin of her parents, who have already been seduced by the life of the upper class.

When a coincidental encounter with Satumaru takes place after many years, perhaps Kaguya thinks she will finally find the true happiness she was yearning for But nothing is that easy, and a larger-than-life yet emotionally subtle moment of togetherness in the woods shows that life can sometimes be more melancholic as opposed to triumphant. There is no stereotypical happy ending to be found in this tale, none whatsoever in the Western sense.

There exists a compelling experiential satisfaction of the closure of a mythical character journey full of ebbs and flows, complexities and emotional introspection, all expressed fully in the compassionate drawings of director Isao Takahata Kaguya might not belong to this world, but perhaps the place she comes from is much more akin to a world that should have been: a place of serenity where nature is not slaughtered and ignored for the sake of artifice and power “Princess Kaguya” is bound to be a classic of film history. The emotional viewing experience of this film reminds us of a place and time where we used to watch movies to try to grasp a deeper meaning of our own existence with the help of cinematographic splendor close to our hearts, not to our pockets and our consumerist drive.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman