Whisper of the Heart (Yoshifumi Kondo, 1995, Japan)

Whisper of the Heart, the first Studio Ghibli film directed by Yoshifumi Kondo, is a sensitive and romantic coming of age drama. Sadly, it was the only film directed by Kondo, who died of a brain aneurysm only a few years later. The film is exceptional at capturing the rhythms of life of its young protagonist, Shizuku Tusikishima. From the apartment where Shizuku lives with her mother, father, and sister, to the antique store where Shizuku will encounter the statue which inspires her to write a story, the film is filled with evocative spaces.The image of Shizuku studying in her apartment has even taken on a life of its own, populating the screen of countless “lofi hiphop study beats” playlists on YouTube.
Whisper of the Heart is remarkably different from comparable American animation, particularly in its calmness and stillness. Even when the film takes on a fantastic turn, it is still far from the frenetic pacing of American animation. Kondo and his collaborators are much more focused on the almost humdrum details of daily life. Even the sounds of city life are rendered with such detail, that you feel as if you have traveled to Japan watching the film. The film’s script is also sensitive to the cultural environment of Japan, including the pressures on Shizuku to perform academically - notably expressed in a lecture she receives from her older sister.

Whisper of the Heart is also a film deeply concerned with the creative process, and we watch Shizuku’s talent as a writer develop over the course of the film. The film does not shy away from the countless hours Shizuku spends poring over her writing, and thus takes on an almost meditative quality. While the film ultimately has a happy ending, it does not feel overly sentimental or forced.

8/10

Comments