Whisper of the heart is one of the most sensitive, heartwarming and beautiful films ever made. Based on a shojo manga by Aoi Hiiragi, Written and produced by Hayao Miyazaki and directed by Yoshifumi Kondo, whisper of the heart is a tale of self discovery and coming of age of a high school girl Shizuku who is not sure what she wants in life. A series of dramatic events bring her closer to a guy Seiji from her own school. Together they embark on a journey which will help them find their inner potentials, realize their dreams and also love for each other. Also featured in the movie is an old man who runs an antique shop stocked with amazing treasures, including a magnificient porcelain figurine "the baron" (also featured in "The cat returns). Both of these characters play an important role in the film. Though "The cat returns" is kind of follow up to "whisper" yet for some reason it was released on dvd before "whisper".
Rarely is a film as honest and realistic as whisper of the heart and that's what makes it amazingly special, charming and successful. Within its thin plot and realistic settings, whisper has its magic moments which are downright uplifting and strike a chord somewhere deep inside. The film itself is a breath of fresh air.
Whisper of the heart, though slow in pace, draws you in from the very beginning and refuses to let you go. Its a heartwarming tale which makes you feel nostalgic and helps you relive the adolescence. Except for the Shizuku's dreamy fantasy sequence, the film relies heavily on dialogues and simple and real situations. The locales and the backgrounds shown in the film are as beautiful and breathtaking as in any other ghibli film. Open spaces, beautiful countryside, deep blue sky with summer clouds, a bicycle ride atop the hill, there are numerous things and moments in the film that set the mood just right, leaving the viewer spellbound and satisfied. After a while you forget completely that you are watching an animated film. Music plays an important role in the film and is soft and relaxing though we do get lots of those silent moments too for which ghibli films are famous. Also featured in the film is John Denver's song "country roads" which makes the perfect backdrop for the film. Not to mention here, the royalty disputes which arised later, making it difficult for the movie to see an American release.
Be it character development, animation or background art of the film, attention to details is simply stunning.The incredibly detailed backgrounds of the fantasy sequences were done by Naohisa Inoue who was an established artist and a long time Miyazaki fan. Impressed by his fantasy work, Miyazaki himself invited him to work on the film. Whisper of the heart dvd released by Buena Vista in Japan includes a special documentary showcasing the dreamy artwork of the film.
Director Yoshifumi Kondo had worked on many ghibli films such as Kiki's delivery service, Grave of the fireflies and Pom poko etc, as an animator. Hayao Miyazaki, who was looking for new breed of directors for ghibli, recognised Kondo's talent in no time and gave him a chance to direct this movie. Unfortunately, whisper of the heart remains to be the first and the only film directed by Yoshifumi Kondo. Just after the release of whisper, Kondo succumbed to cancer. It is evident from whisper of the heart how immensely talented and sensitive director Kondo was.
Films like whisper of the heart are very rare and come once in a lifetime. Watching a film like this is an experience to behold and cherish forever.