Thursday, 14 August 2014

Spirited Away (2001)

Hayao Miyazaki was the writer/director of Laputa: Castle in the Sky and the director of Howl's Moving Castle, both of which I gave glowing reviews, so you will probably not be surprised that I enjoyed this a lot as well.

Miyazaki conceived the film because he wanted to make a movie that would appeal to a colleague's ten-year old daughter, but that wouldn't feature traditionally 'girl' themes like crushes and fashion and other such things that society dictates are 'feminine'.

The film opens with ten-year old Chihiro and her parents driving to their new house.  Chihiro is less than thrilled about moving, and giving her parents a bit of attitude about the whole thing.  When her father takes a wrong turn and they end up at a deserted complex of buildings in the woods, her agitation increases.

Finding piles of delicious food at what appears to be a market stall, her parents sit down to eat.  They wave away Chihiro's concerns about 'getting in trouble' by promising to pay for the meal.  Chihiro declines to eat, and instead meets a young boy, Haku, who warns her that she has strayed into the spirit world.  She must get her parents and leave as soon as she can.

The warning is too late, however ... when she returns to her parents, Chihiro finds they have been turned into pigs!  Now trapped in the spirit world, Chihiro must find a way to break the curse on her parents (before they get turned from pigs into bacon) and get them all home safely.  How hard can that be?  I mean, she only has to deal with a wicked witch, stink spirits, a ravenous monster, and a dragon.  Nothing to it, right?

If you've ever watched and liked a Miyazaki film before, then you'll like this one.  If you haven't, it's probably not the best introduction.  It's a good film, but it relies heavily on Japanese folk lore in parts, and the narrative structure is not the western norm.  I'd say Laputa is a better place to start as it has a more conventional story-telling approach.  Come back to this one after that.  But do come back.  It's worth your time unless you're one of those 'won't want cartoons' people.

Looking forward to sharing this with my nieces when they're in the 11-12 year old range.

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