Howl’s Moving Castle is a candidate for our favorite movie, although we only recently discovered it. We watched it again last night — and I didn’t have to keep my eyes closed the whole time as it’s one of the DVDs Allen brought to watch on the laptop. I just hit PLAY on our laptop at the same time Alene did on hers.
One of the sweetest moments is when we first see Sophie sound asleep — and the spell that made her into an old woman temporarily lifted — so she’s again a young girl. Howl looks charmed — as well he should be.
It’s a sweet experience when I check in with Alene while she’s still asleep in the morning. I joke about just seeing the insides of her eyelids — but it’s actually a very subtle experience. If she is truly asleep, then there’s nothing going on at the conscious level for me to experience. However, her subconscious is aware of me, because when I whisper her name, I can feel a loving response from her — like a smile. My breathing synchronizes with hers and I often fall asleep too.
Often I find her awake — but still in bed. I still just see the insides of her eyelids, but now I heard ambient noise, such as the sound of the kitchen ceiling fan, or the birds twittering outside. Sometimes I hear the sound of purring, and when Alene opens her eyes, I find a cat face staring at me. I rather like this, especially when waking up from a joint afternoon nap. I get to enjoy the comforting sound of a cat purring without the inconvenience of having a cat lying on my chest shedding hairs into my face.
The movie has come to mean a lot to Alene. She feels like she was put under a spell in 1999 — a spell that she is unable to tell anyone about. And while she wasn’t turned into an old woman, she did become a person that was rather different from her old self. Sophie had no choice but to leave her job, town, friends and family — as Alene eventually did. She struck out into the Waste and took up residence in a castle with no fixed coordinates in space — and she found some unlikely friends too.
After Sophie gets carried away cleaning Howl’s bathroom — causing him to have a major meltdown over the changed color of his hair — she leaves the castle and stands on a lake shore in pouring rain — and weeps bitterly. Alene is all too familiar with this. Sometimes her heart has taken all it can— and she breaks down on the spot — not caring where or when it happens. It’s nice when a hopping scarecrow brings her an umbrella.
In the end, all that remains of the castle is a small platform tottering on two wobbly legs — but it just keeps going — and Sophie is unable to give up on Howl. Her trip back in time to Howl’s childhood, where she witnesses the loss of his heart, is reminiscent of Rose Tyler’s unrelenting devotion to the Doctor — “Howl! Look for me in the future!”
Of course, the movie has a happy ending. So does Rose Tyler. Although she and the Doctor have a heart-wrenching goodbye on a beach (surely one of the saddest goodbyes of all time on TV), she gets to keep a human duplicate of him at the end of Season 4.
Ours will be a happy ending. I keep telling Alene.