When I was a kid, one of my favorite folk tales was ‘Kaguya hime or Princess Kaguya.’ I read it over and over again and I still remember the scene in which the messengers from the moon descend to Earth to pick the Princess up with the full moon as a backdrop. It was not only beautiful and owe inspiring, but made me aware of the existence of outer space and the creatures living there for the first time.
It’s amazing that the story dates back to the 10th century. It’s the oldest-known science fiction narrative to exist. Isn’t it fun to think that people 1,000 years ago imagined aliens on the moon as they looked up at the sky? For me, as a four or five year old kid, Princess Kaguya was nothing but an alien who tried to contact us like ET.
The original story writes that one day, an old bamboo woodcutter finds a bamboo tree glowing mysteriously while he is working. A beautiful baby girl appears from it. The old woodcutter and his wife think that the baby is a gift and raise her as their own. After, she grows up into a beautiful princess, princes and even the Emperor himself vies for her affection. However, she returns to her home on the moon leaving the Emperor alone and heartbroken.
Ghibli’s latest animation, ‘The Tale of Princess Kaguya’ is based on this story. The difference is that Takahata, the directer of the film has embodied the character of Kaguya and has added the reasons why she came down to Earth and had to return to the moon. As the tag line of the film goes “A princess’ crime and punishment,” the reasons are the clue to understand the film.
Takahata depicts the liveliness of everything on the earth closely with seemingly rough and dynamic strokes. When Princess Kaguya runs though the field, gentle breeze blows and the grass bends joyfully along with it. Birds, insects, animals, grass, trees and flowers, everything is alive. Our lives are filled with brightness, even though we have to go through sufferings. Despite fear, anger, and sadness, our lives are wonderfully original. The film brilliantly illuminates it with images of life.
I longed for the moon when I was a kid. On the contrary, Princess Kaguya longed for the earth. It can be said that the film tells something important from the viewpoint of an outsider. It’s a cerebration of life on earth.
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