‘The Secret World of Arrietty’ is truly enchanting

The Secret World of Arrietty (released in the US on February 17th), the latest from Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli, captivated me completely, and has become one of my favorite of the many children’s book adaptations to appear in recent years.

This film is one of the most lushly beautiful and intricately rendered animated films I have ever seen. Each scene is saturated with color and creatively imagined details of what the whimsical world of a borrower might look like. The beauty of the natural world outside is meditatively lingered upon in many scenes as Arrietty explores the sun-dappled details of leaves and pebbles and water droplets. The human world, too, is seen in a whole new light: in one instance the kitchen looms like a canyon before Arrietty on her first foray into borrowing.

The sound design adds an unexpectedly rich dimension to the visual elements of the film. Minute noises are amplified in a way that imaginatively captures what the aural experience is like for little ears. The ticking of a clock, the hum of a refrigerator, or the night noises that drift in through an open window accost the listener in a way that they never may have before. Cécile Corbel’s surprising and delightful soundtrack adds yet another layer of intricacy to the film as it coordinates with the detailed sound design.

But how does it compare to the book?

Not following Mary Norton’s classic as closely as the 1992 TV version or diverging as much as the (still quirky and fun) 1997 version, The Secret World of Arrietty strikes a wonderful balance that maintains the heart of the original story while reimagining and thematically expanding upon the original 1952 book. The story is gracefully transposed into the present day, to a modern, subtly Japanese country house.

Arrietty and Homily Clock remain much as they appear in the book, but in the new film, Arrietty’s father has a wonderfully quiet, fatherly gravitas that differs from his slightly more garrulous counterpart in the book. The boy’s character in Arrietty, too, differs and expands upon his character in the book. The Boy, Shawn, is a bit older and wiser than the nine-year-old character in the book. The film emphasizes and further develops the sickness that was only briefly mentioned in the book by making Shawn the lonely only child of busy parents, sent to the country to rest before he has a serious heart surgery. Shawn’s storyline adds a nuanced theme of mortality and loneliness that beautifully complements the scintillating delight for life and celebration of family closeness on Arrietty’s side of the story. His relationship with Arrietty comments upon the bittersweet but lasting joy of transient friendships.

My verdict…

This film in many ways transcends its subject matter. Through both the visual and aural elements, I was deliciously reminded of how fresh and enthralling the world was when I was discovering it for the first time as a child. Each scene is imbued with a childlike sense of wonder and discovery that speaks to the child in all of us. Arrietty is enchanting whether one has read the book or not, but I do hope that such a lovely adaptation will lead many (children and grown-ups alike) to discover—or rediscover—the beloved series.


‘Hunger Games’ breaks a ‘Twilight’ ticket sales record | Inside Movies | EW.com

The Hunger Games is certainly one of the most anticipated book adaptations to hit screens this year (The Hobbit still seems so many months way away).

Will it be bigger than Twilight? I can only hope that this film merits its popularity in ways that the Twilight films have notoriously not merited their popularity.

‘Hunger Games’ breaks a ‘Twilight’ ticket sales record | Inside Movies | EW.com.

Kid Lit (and more!) at the Oscars

Oscar season has been especially exciting for me this year due to the striking number of Oscar nominations for children’s literature adaptations and movies featuring children.

The Best Picture nominees alone include two films based on children’s books (Hugo and War Horse) and another two films with child protagonists (The Tree of Life and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close).

Hugo, Martin Scorsese’s film based on Brian Selznick’s magnificent book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, has received 11 Oscar nominations. War Horse, most famously adapted from the Tony Award-Winning play, was first a book by Children’s Laureate Michael Morpurgo. The film has received 6 Oscar nominations.

The Adventures of Tintin, based on Hergé’s beloved series about the exploits of the eponymous hero also received an Oscar nomination. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 received 3 nominations.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, the enchantingly whimsical tribute to the joy of reading and power of books has my vote for Best Animated Short Film. I love the paradoxical harmony this film somehow achieves as it so beautifully uses a cinematic medium to celebrate literacy.

Believe me, it’s worth all fifteen minutes:

The best children’s movies are not only for children…

I went to school for Film and Media Studies only to discover, in my last year of school, that I was always most drawn to researching those issues in media that related to children, and that I was always most drawn to those films that recaptured for me even a scintilla of the wonder of childhood.

Children’s books never lost their aura of magic and discovery for me, nor their power to move. In addition to studying film in school, I took classes in children’s and young adult literature and interned in children’s book publishing. A passionate student of both film and children’s literature, I have set out to explore the often-rocky relationship between the two.

I dedicate this site chiefly to seeking out and analyzing cinematic adaptations of children’s literature and that rare gem of a children’s film that places itself as a sort of cinematic literature all its own.

Many digressions will inevitably ensue as I am carried along by my fascination with the child’s place and depiction in history and culture … And I will be ever questing for those transcendent films that capture the quiddities of childhood: the wonder, the freshness, the thrill of being at the beginning of one’s own life story, and the bittersweet process of growing up.