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This must be one of the most beloved films among critics, and no surprise here. Firstly, because it is fabulous. But also, secondly, because it takes liberties that critics (defining criterion: they watch a ton of movies every year) love: it is edgy, it kills off beloved characters, it defies expectations, it is slow when other films would be frantic. “Fireflies” takes the liberty of creating a film about war and not romanticising a damn thing. It shows two children who fall victim to a world at war, and not only to the enemies fire bombs, but also to the increasing egoism of their own people, their own relatives, infected by the disease that is called blind patriotism  and nationalism.

I read somewhere that a critic saw one scene (where brother and sister are taking a bath together and he creates an air bubble out of cloth for his little sister’s amusement) and this scene made him realise he is experiencing something different and beautiful. I had a similar epiphany when the little girl is shown pulling her treasure purse on a string from her blouse. It’s a bit long, she struggles with it, but manages. This so spectacularly well observed, so beautifully casually recreated, and it serves the purpose of making these people real. The fact that this is an animated film is incidental, because this film merely takes whatever means are necessary to show reality. If reality needs heightening by buzzing fireflies at night, so be it. The sore patches on the little girl’s skin are real, even though they are drawn and coloured. The sadness in her face when she shows that she already knows about the fate of her mother, and tries to bury the dead fireflies in the same manner her mother is supposedly buried, this sadness is real, because Takahata knows exactly how to draw a scene so as to make it hit the point.

The film made me imagine what it was like, being uprooted during war time, losing friends and family and home, losing all places where you could go, and reaching a point of zero possession and complete dependency on strangers, accepting the fact that all rules are off, that this is about survival now, for yourself and your little sister. I have seen many films about war time and post-war time,  but while I was seeing the final act of “fireflies” I was wondering whether I have ever seen a film that evokes this feeling of being utterly lost, of being spat out by history, so utterly perfect and cruelly.


One Comment

  1. Agree the fact that this is animated is incidental. Not often that an animated film can affect me deeply on an emotional level, and this one succeeded.
    Suitable for adults, whch this year’s Inside Out (2015) I would argue is too.

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