Teenage bookworm Shizuku plans to read away the summer vacation.
But when she finds that the same mystery borrower has got
to every book before her, she meets Seiji, a trainee violin-maker
who challenges her to stop reading and start writing...
released in Japan in 1995 as Mimi wo sumaseba (literally
translated as 'If You Listen Closely'), Disney have not only
given us a new English dub, they've even seen fit to give
us a new title for their latest release from the Studio Ghibli
Of The Heart is an unusually quiet and reflective Ghibli
film, with very few of the fantastical elements you would
normally associate with the studio. There are a couple of
breathtaking 'dream sequences' which do help the film flicker
into life albeit very briefly, but on the whole this is very
much a down-to-earth story, as we follow the passage of young
student Shizuku, through her ambitions and feelings as she
re-evaluates her life and her future.
It doesn't sound very gripping so far, does it? To be honest,
Whisper Of The Heart is indeed a pretty slow-moving
and uneventful affair, and seems to promise much more than
it delivers. There are some intriguing elements at the beginning
of the film which seem to be setting up a cracking tale -
who is the mysterious student who always seems to hire Shizuku's
books from the library before she does? What secrets lie waiting
in Mr Nishi's Antiques Shop? And what is the significance
of the train-hopping cat who seems to be guiding Shizuku to
the answers are disappointing and almost irrelevant, as they
get in the way of what is essentially a school love story
with a bit of soul-searching and angst thrown in along the
way. It's a simple and occasionally charming story, but it
doesn't really seem to add up to very much as a whole. The
sparkling highlights are the mesmerising and quite beautiful
'dream sequences' but they're over too quickly and you end
up wishing the film had gone a little further down this road.
Instead, Whisper Of The Heart hints at something wondrous
and fantastical, but repeatedly brings us back down to earth
with a bit of a whimper.
Fans of these Studio Ghibli releases will be more than familiar
with the minimal special features on the disc - choice of
languages, the original trailer, alternative angle storyboards
etc. It's actually quite telling though that one of the highlights
of the disc is a showcase for other Studio Ghibli films, just
about all of which seem to be much more preferable and magical
viewing than this one.