On this edition of Creations of Chaos, the film that nails what it’s like to be a writer, it’s Studio Ghibli’s, Whisper of the Heart.
Director: Yoshifumi Kondo
Writer: Hayao Miyazaki
Release Date: 1995
Version Watched: English Dubbed
The First Part
Whisper of the Heart is a film in two parts. The first part reminded me of the films, The Shop Around the Corner and You’ve Got Mail.
Junior High student Shizuku is a major bookworm. A frequent visitor to the library, she discovers that a male named Seiji Amasawa checked out all of the books she checked out. After a little detective work, she confirms that the mysterious Seiji is a young man. Shizuku develops a crush on the boy she has never met. After all, if they love the same books, they must be a perfect match.
I am a girl who likes specific romantic movies. A lot of those movies involve books. My husband often argues that it’s the books I love in the movies, not the romance. For me, Whisper of the Heart has one of the most romantic concepts I have seen in any film. I loved the idea of finding your soul mate via library check out card so much, I was a little sad that this didn’t happen to me.
While Shizuku is trying to figure out who Seiji is, she meets another boy. Like most adolescent males, this boy communicates using a mixture of teasing, and a little too much honesty. When describing an encounter with this boy Shizuku says,
“I was having an extraordinary day, like I was living in a fairy tale, then some jerk talked to me for two seconds and ruined everything.”
Of course as an audience member you suspect right away that the “stupid jerk” is most likely Seiji Amasawa.
Shizuku’s heart deflates like a pin pricked balloon when she discovers that her fantasy guy is someone she despises, but once she gets to know Seiji, an aspiring violin maker, he begins to grow on Shizuku.
Their relationship blossoms over music. Seiji plays the song that Shizuku has been writing lyrics for. He plays, her beautiful voice sings, and Seiji’s grandfather and friends join in. The scene makes my heart happy.
Unfortunately, Seiji is leaving for a two month stay in Italy where his talent as a violin maker will be assessed by a professional.
Instead of being the sad, lonely girlfriend, Shizuku is inspired by Seiji’s ambition, and comes up with her own ambitious plan.
The Second Part
In the second part of the film, Shizuku does her own version of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), but instead of having only one month to write a novel, she gives herself two.
Inspired by a cat statue called, The Baron, in Seiji’s grandfather’s antique shop, Shizuku obsessively writes her novel.
Her grades slip, and her teachers and parents are concerned, but she won’t stop writing until she proves to herself that she has the chops to be a writer. She is non-stop.
A Writer’s Life
There are a lot of films that romanticize the depressing struggles of being a writer. Whisper of the Heart neither romanticizes the struggles, nor the highs of the writer’s life. It strikes a realistic balance. Writing is a roller coaster ride of highs and lows.
In one scene after her friends praise the lyrics she has written, Shizuku skips away exclaiming,
“I love being a writer!”
Fast forward to another scene when Shizuku has been up all night writing. Drained and exhausted, she curls up into a ball on the floor.
Once she has completed her novel, Shizuku gives it to Seiji’s grandfather to read. She spews her self-doubt, proclaiming her writing to be a mess, the dialogue to be corny, all of the things most writers’ say at one point or another. Seiji’s grandfather explains that writing is like a geode.
First you have to dig to find the gem within. Once you have unearthed the gem, you need to polish it until it shines. I found this quite inspiring. I almost bought a geode yesterday. I still might get one to keep on my desk for a bit of inspiration.
Shizuku is my dream junior high self. I wish I was cool enough at fourteen to write a novel and have an intelligent, violin making boyfriend. I will say that I found the romance a little strange. Having two junior high students so in love that they actually discuss marriage, caused my cynical side to bubble up.There is no way this teen romance is going to make it into adulthood, I thought. I never had a boyfriend in junior high, so maybe junior high romances are that intense? If they did end up married, I’d love to read Shizuku’s memoir about her life with Seiji, living as expats in Italy; he a master violin maker, and she a writer. They would work during the day, and in the evenings they would hang out with their eccentric, artist, friends, eating plates of pasta, and drinking robust red wines. They would be like Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, minus the alcoholism and relationship drama.
I adored Whisper of the Heart. It’s sweet, uplifting, and inspiring. I think it’s a must watch for all artists, but especially writers.