Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Screenwriter: Keiko Niwa
Runtime: 94 mins.
Australian release date: 12 January 2012
The director Hiromasa Yonebayashi was the key animator on Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle, which gave Australian audiences a real taste of Studio Ghibli in recent years. Arrietty is Yonebayashi’s first feature and it is simply stunning.
Based on the novel The Borrowers, by Mary Norton, the story has moved from 1950s England to modern day Japan. The idea that the era of mass consumption is coming to an end and we will eventually move into an era of borrowing, not buying, intrigued the creators of this fascinating adaptation.
Arrietty is a young girl living with her parents under a house. They are ‘little’ people and they forage for food from the big people’s kitchen and garden. They have to be careful not to be seen by the ‘humans’, otherwise they have to move on. The little people also have to be wary of insects and cats that are, of course, much bigger than them and therefore pose a danger.
The storyline is a wonderful fantasy, but it is the animation which is a visual feast. Move over Disney, this is the real thing. We are now experiencing new Japanese animator directors who are being embraced by the resident Studio Ghibli’s old guard, namely Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki, who are now both getting on in years and slowly preparing to hand over the reins. Fans of the latter will be pleased to know that the master wrote the screenplay of this film and oversaw its development, and it shows. There are pastoral scenes in Arrietty that are as beautiful as any of Claude Monet’s views of his garden in Giverny.
Arrietty is a wonderful film for all the family and the only suggestion I make is to check the cinema listings and seek out the Japanese voice version. The English translation felt a little off kilter and at times seemed to break the lyrical mood of this charming manga.