Director: Isao Takahata
Writer: Akiyuki Nosaka (novel), Isao Takahata
After an air raid destroys their home, Seita and his younger sister Setsuko must find a way to fend for themselves. However, rations are tight and even those who might wish to help have no means to do so.
Grave of the Fireflies is one of those rare films so powerful and so poignant, that talking about them at all seems some sort of desecration. After having watched so much death and destruction, little seems left to say. What, in fact, can be said? Perhaps a Shakespearean character might wish to soliloquize on death, but for the rest of us, fettered by words and not knowing how to grasp at the ineffable, silence in the face of something so large and so solemn often seems best. Unfortunately, when people read reviews, they typically expect to see some words used, and so I must offer a short attempt at describing the majesty of this film, even though I expect the attempt to fall flat. What do you say about a film that opens with both protagonists dead and only gets worse from there? How do you describe the effect of seeing Allied forces destroy the lives of so many innocent civilians–the Allies, whom the West calls the “good guys”? How do you process the displacement of families, the orphaning of children, the starvation of innocents? How do you look at a society that wishes they could save their children but literally has nothing to offer? It simply rends your heart. Grave of the Fireflies is the most depressing film I have ever seen. It offers small moments of beauty, fireflies in the night, but all of it ends too soon and the impending death looms ever in the background. I was not sure I would be able even to finish watching the movie–and yet to think that it is based on true events, that people lived this nightmare and could not get out. It may not be a typical “anti-war” film–at least, I never felt that it wished to convey that particular message. But few films offer such an unrelenting view of the misery, the harshness, and the futility of war.