The lovely Cara of Silver Screen Serenade is celebrating her first blogiversary with a big party! As a part of this momentous occasion, she called upon fellow bloggers to send in something about their most beloved films to celebrate. So, I decided to write a little review (bonus party kangaroos here) of one of my favourite films, Spirited Away (2001). Read the rest of the Blogiversary Bash posts over at Cara’s blog!
An epic adventure story set in a magical spirit land, legendary director Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away (2001) is a Studio Ghibli classic that everyone has to see. Ten-year-old Chihiro and her family are driving to their new home, far away from the city where they used to live. On the way, they get lost driving in the forest and come across a mysterious tunnel. Chihiro’s parents decide to explore the tunnel to see what’s on the other side in a sudden fit of adventurousness, despite Chihiro’s protests. Finding a street of shops and restaurants eerily empty of people, but full of delicious food, her parents begin to stuff their faces with decadent dishes. Chihiro goes to explore the town, and when she returns, her parents have literally turned into pigs. Finding herself stranded in this town, Chihiro must discover a solution to this problem, taking her on an adventure beyond her wildest imagination.
I love Spirited Away because it’s one of those films with the power to make you feel wholeheartedly comfortable, despite its bittersweet or scary moments. All of the creative elements are absolutely stunning (more on that later), and the story is fairly light, but it has a mighty amount of substance that only serves to increase ones’ enjoyment of the film, and to draw the viewer in to its world. Spirited Away is the perfect ‘rainy day’ film because the bright colours and adventurous story cause the viewer to almost feel as though they’ve gone on an adventure, just like Chihiro has. I first watched this when I was stuck inside the house with a broken leg, and it was one of the best films to be housebound with for this very reason.
One question that viewers might have before thinking of watching this film is whether they would want to see the original Japanese language film with subtitles, or the English dubbed film. There’s not too much of a difference between the two in terms of content, except that the English language version tends to be slightly more obvious when it comes to approaching the mysterious characters, as opposed to the Japanese version, which is more ambiguous and allows the audience to put certain puzzle pieces together themselves. The original Japanese with subtitles also seems to be a slightly more witty script. But this depends on your preference when watching foreign films – if you’re not a fan of subtitles, you would probably prefer the English dubbed version, regardless of the differences between the two. Additionally, the English dub is filled with lots of familiar voices and it’s fun to try and guess who’s who.
Spirited Away plays host to some of the most beautiful animation out of all of the Studio Ghibli films. Not only are the movements of all the characters and background elements very fluid and smooth, there is something stunning in every scene that catches the eye; whether it’s a strange creature in the background, a flash on a shiny surface, or the rhythmic tousling of a character’s hair in the wind. The strange world that Chihiro finds herself in is rendered in bright colours and filled with incongruous elements that seem at times simultaneously creepy, traditional, funny, and elegant. All of the scenes in the bathhouse are brilliantly designed, with a dreamlike aesthetic and unpredictable characters that keep you on your toes. It’s the perfect match to Joe Hisaishi’s score, which is beautiful and moving.
Ultimately, Spirited Away isn’t just an entertaining film to pass the time – the themes portrayed within this film are so poignant, and can be easily understood by viewers both young and old; themes such as courage, loyalty, commitment, family, and love, to name a selection. You might be able to see the parallels with Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland, however this isn’t just a story about a girl hoping to escape a strange situation. It’s about a courageous young girl who seeks to save those she loves, and develops a sense of personal strength in the process of doing so. As with any Miyazaki film, the creative elements are beyond reproach, and when combined with such strong storytelling, characters, themes, and music, the result is a delightful and unique film that can be watched over and over again.
Watch the trailer here.