Japanese filmmakers are indisputably world leaders in the production of anime features and Belle sits alongside Spirited Away and Summer Wars as a brilliantly animated and imaginative piece of filmmaking.
Produced by Academy Award-nominated Mamoru Hosoda and Studio Chizu, Belle is the remarkable re-imagining of the French tale Beauty And The Beast, interest and originality heightened by the inclusion of social media in the classic story.
Young schoolgirl Suzu lives with her father in a small village and feels desperately alone, having lost her mother at a very tender age. Something of an outcast she enters “U” a virtual world which has five billion members on the internet. She takes on the identity of Belle an incredibly beautiful singer and eventually falls in love with “the beast” a person who behind the avatar holds a very ugly secret.
This unique and very ambitious film which deals with long term grief, the search for happiness, secrets and child abuse stimulates the imagination with the meticulous detail in the animation.
Dark and sinister at times, the musical sequences are absolutely dazzling and the Japanese music entrancing and a joy to listen to. It’s not surprising that this was the third highest grossing film in Japan.
This film is not suitable for younger children. With a running time of just over two hours and subtitles to read, it may also be a challenge for audiences who aren’t enthusiasts of Japanese anime.
Belle ultimately makes a universal statement on today’s society which depends totally on technology. Everybody has the desire for happiness – even if it means searching for it on social media.