Review | BELLE
“Belle is a visual wonder in which Hosoda makes a compelling commentary on social media. Kaho Nakamura’s songs are the highlight of the brilliant soundtrack.”
Belle is Mamoru Hosoda’s latest movie. It premiered at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival receiving the longest standing ovation. A day later, it was released in Japanese cinemas in July 2021 where it was a big success. Now, general Western audiences can finally experience this movie. So is this movie worth all the hype?
Belle is loosely based on the French fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. It’s not your usual adaptation. Hosoda takes elements from that fairy tale and creates his own universe with it. If you have seen his previous works, you’ll know how creative he is and Belle is no exception. In this movie, there are two worlds – our world, the real world and U, an AR virtual world where anything is possible. With these two worlds, Hosoda is able to tackle a lot of different and important subjects.
We follow the story of Suzu, a Japanese highschooler. She is not the popular girl, she doesn’t have many friends and is very shy. And as if it wasn’t enough, she has trouble grieving her mother whom she lost when she was young. Her mother sacrificed herself to save a child. That sacrifice plays a major role in Suzu’s story as she doesn’t understand why her mother died for a stranger. The world of U is going to help Suzu face her fears. Because she hides under an avatar, she is able to do things, she wouldn’t do as Suzu – she can sing again.
Hosoda makes a compelling commentary of social media with the world of U. Because, we often hide under an avatar, people think that gives them permission to do everything they want. We see that with Justin’s character, who thinks he can police U. He decides on his own that The Dragon’s identity must be revealed. On the contrary, Belle wants to help and protect The Dragon. And we should all take example from her – use social media to be a positive voice and help people rather than constantly arguing about futile things. Indeed, you don’t know who is behind a profile on Twitter, maybe it’s someone who is in pain and he is actually there to escape his reality. Her relationship with Dragon symbolizes that.
He already used a virtual world with Summer Wars, and I think using two worlds ours and a virtual one really help addressing important issues. And that’s the genius of Hosoda, he creates stories that make us dream but they also make us think. With Belle, Hosoda makes a commentary of social media while also talking about grief, friendship, love, family. It’s a multi-layered story. A lot of people can identify to Suzu. Indeed, on one hand her story is about learning how to move on and accept grief and on the other hand, it’s also about believing in yourself and not be afraid of who you are. I would be greatly disappointed if Belle doesn’t win an Oscar for Best Animated Feature.
When the story takes place in the real world, it uses Hosoda’s usual visual style. A simplistic but wonderful animation. While the animation in U is an international effort. Indeed, Jim Kim and Michael Camacho from Disney helped creating Belle. And the Irish studio Cartoon Saloon helped for the background. This team work creates a unique visual style for the virtual world of U. It’s certainly Hosoda’s most ambitious movie and the results are amazing. Belle is a visual wonder!
From its vibrant score to Kaho Nakamura’s melodious voice, the soundtrack is brilliant. I was mesmerized by Nakamura’s singing voice, there is so much emotion in her performance. Her songs are accompanied by a full orchestra and that is absolute perfection.
Belle is a visual wonder in which Hosoda makes a compelling commentary on social media. Kaho Nakamura’s songs are the highlight of the brilliant soundtrack.
BELLE is now in US cinemas and will be released in the UK on February 4th.
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Collectables Editor at Future Of The Force.
Star Wars and Marvel specialist, anime expert