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Grave Of The Fireflies [1988] - 8.97

Customer reviews (av rating: 5.0):

Rating: 5:
You thought Bambi was sad! : If the word devestating hadn't existed it would have been invented for this. A truly affecting and upsetting film, brilliantly directed. The symbolism of the firefly is profound and the story is so tragic it's hard not to cry. The fact that Seita is to blame for his sisters death makes the film more difficult to watch because we relate to him and sympathise with him so strongly. And although I knew how the film will end (because of the prologue) I found myself hoping that I had misunderstood and that Setsuko would be alright. The film is an anti-war movie, but also an attack on pride against reason. The image of Setsuko wearing the soldiers hat and saluting to the camera at the end of the film confirms its place as the former. For me it was even more emotional due to the fact that the film was about the Japanese, our "enemies" in the war, but the film attacks Japan's role in the war more than demonising the opposing side, as is the case in so many American war films. Seita's pride causing his sisters death runs parallel with Japanese pride causing the tragedies associated witht their involvement in the war. Setsuko is such a sad character, when she tries to eat the marble and asks "why do fireflies die so quickly?" you cant help but feel a lump in the throat. I have never cried at a film before, but I cried at this. If it wasn't a Japanese film and if it wasn't animated it would be heralded as one of the greatest war films ever made. Even by Ghibli's high standards this film is brilliant.

Rating: 5:
A great, tragic film : The first sentence in the movie is "September 21, 1945...that was the night I died." The voice belongs to 14-year-old Seita, and his spirit tells us what happened to him and his five-year-old sister, Setsuko, in the weeks before. This is one of the saddest films I've ever seen, but a great one. Elements of the plot are discussed, but we know what's going to happen with that first sentence.

Seita, his mother and sister live in Kobe, Japan. One day American bombers hit the city in a fire bomb raid. Their mother is terribly burned and dies shortly after in a crowded hospital. They haven't heard from their father, a naval officer serving on a cruiser, in a long time. We assume he is dead. Their home is destroyed and Seita takes his sister to his aunt and her family. Things don't work out. Food is short. The aunt becomes more abrupt and impatient with Seita when she realizes the children may be staying permanently. Seita takes his sister to a hill one evening to watch the thousands of fireflies, which delights Setsuko. Seita finally decides to take his sister and live by themselves in an abandoned bomb shelter dug into the side of a river cliff. What money he has proves useless as food is increasingly hard to find. Slowly the two children slip down into malnutrition and sickness. Seita is responsible for his sister and tries to keep her spirits up when she cries for her mother or tells him how hungry she is, but there is no one to take care of Seita. They suffer rashes. Seita tries to comb the lice from Setsuko's hair. Setsuko begins to suffer from diarrhea. Without family, no one wants them. One night he catches fireflies in a can and releases them in the cave for Setsuko. The next morning he finds his sister digging a grave for the fireflies, who have all died. "Why must fireflies die so young," but there's no answer to the question. Soon after, Setsuko dies. Seita cremates his sister and carries her ashes in a box with him. And on September 21, in the Kobe railway station, surrounded by other lost, homeless people, Seita dies.

This is undoubtedly one of he great anti-war movies. There is also a moral lesson, which director Isao Takahata points out, in hubris. Seita makes a decision which is disastrous for himself and his sister, but it is a decision of a 14-year-old who has had to assume responsibilities far beyond what he should. The relationship between the two children, their love for each other, Setsuko's trust in him and Seita's determination to care for her is a heartbreaker.

The film is stunningly drawn, from nightmarish scenes of incendiary bomb attacks on wooden neighborhoods to achingly beautiful scenes of seashores, valleys and rain storms. Takahata and his animators have given Seita and Setsuko so much character and individuality that we see them as children, not animated subjects.

Film critic Roger Ebert, in a commentary on the film, says that the first time he saw the movie he nearly cried. So did I. This is a sad, powerful film. The two disc DVD features a stunning transfer and several extras.

Rating: 4:
If Watership Down made you cry DONT buy this!! : ...Because you will cry your guts out!
I am not very whimpy/emotional with films and it is unusual for me to get more than a lump in my throat when watching a sad movie.
This is so upsetting that I cried after 5 minutes. I continued to watch it because I thought it couldn't get any sadder - I was wrong!
The high quality of the script and animation makes it all the easier to empathise with the characters and you find yourself hooked wondering how they will cope next.
I only rate this a cautious 4 stars because I found it so sad and upsetting!

Rating: 5:
The saddest film ever made. : Whichever films you may have watched in the past that have made you cry at the end. None will have prepared you for this film, based on the true story of two young children and their fight for survival in wartime Japan. Beautifully illustrated and scripted, this film will draw you in as you watch the children move from one hardship to the next, you will hope for a happy ending, but it doesn't come. What you will witness is the love of the older brother for his young sister Setsuko and how he struggles to provide for them both, a task he is unable, no matter how hard he tries, to achieve. Which leaves you to watch Setsuko slowly and uncomplainingly starve to death, in a way that no other film to my knowledge has come close to matching in it's relentlessness and saddness.

You will not cry at the end of this film you will grieve.

Rating: 5:
. : Very occasionally, I am moved to tears by a film. Before I saw "Grave of the Fireflies" these tended to invite a kind of "bittersweet sorrow" that I indulged, rather than empathetically and spontaneously felt. "Grave of the Fireflies" is the first film I have seen since my childhood that has evoked uncontrollable grief in me. Watching this was one of the most important events of my recent life. It restored my faith in art's capability to inspire empathy and it changed my views on war forever. For people to say this film is cliched or manipulative upsets me deeply! I feel it is incredibly cynical to say this!

Please watch this film: it is a very very important piece, though it is nearly 20 years old I think it is even more relevant today than ever. In the UK I am so far from current wars and the current "enemy" - in this film, victory seems hardly worth it. And all Takahata is doing is showing us a TINY fraction of the human cost.

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