Prepare to be ÃÂSpirited AwayÃÂ into a wondrous childrenÃÂs fairytale bursting with fantasy and adventure, where instantly loveable creature jostle about their daily activities in the bath houses of Japan, dancing across the screen like leaves caught in a playful summer breeze. This Japanese Animation directed by Hayao Miyazaki with the works of Studio Ghibli, goes beyond boundaries, pulling us into an imaginative world where we can relive our long-lost childhood memories. This clever mixture of fantasy and adventure is what makes Spirited Away a perfect candidate for the Brisbane International Film Festival 2010.
ÃÂSpirited AwayÃÂ comments on everything from a forgotten Japan through the eyes of a child protagonist. Chihiro, a ten year old girl in the midst of a move to the suburbs with her parents, wanders into a mysterious town; discovering another world of gods and creatures, ruled over by a witch. There, humans are changed into animals and disappear.
Chihiro, who has a listless disposition, must start working at a huge bath house to survive in order to return to her own world. ChihiroÃÂs emotional journey is told with sensitivity and truthfulness as her character develops throughout the story.
There is simply no denying that Hayao Miyazaki is the Godfather of Japanese Animation, time and time again delivering works of mastery storytelling, which one can only be left speechless. Miyazaki inspired to create a film about Japanese youth, in which ten year old girls can find their true wishes.(reference) Some of the scenes were designed from Edo Tokyo Tatemonoen, a traditional Japanese and Western theme park and the bath house was inspired from and considered a mysterious place in MiyazakiÃÂs home town. (reference) So Spirited Away is not only fun entertainment, this film also boasts authentic architecture from Japanese history.
Miyazaki has written, directed and produced other films such as Princess Mononoke and HowlÃÂs Moving Castle, also writing for a Japanese comic named Manga. (reference) His incredible ability to draw and the seemingly endless stream of movie ideas has contributed to his success over the years. During the production of Spirited Away, Miyazaki drew 621 slides and proposed three alternative storylines. (reference) Consequently, Miyazaki has incorporated in the story Japanese folklore that gives the story cultural richness and similarities to fascinate a wider audience.
Spirited Away is totally hand drawn, without the aid of computer graphics and special effects. However, what is most apparent about the film is the sensual use of music and lighting; with its accordance to the scene present as it further identifies a characters personality. All in all the film techniques are a fundamental part of Spirited Away as it combines with each scene to deliver a fabulous movie.
The characters are well constructed and developed that they all become believable as if they were actors. Chihiro is the protagonist of the story played by Daveigh Chase in the English dubbed version. (reference) When she is first introduced into the movie she is a spoilt, whining and over-protected brat. The first scene is where Chihiro shows her greedy, spoilt side when she complains and stubbornly refuses the fact that they have to go and live in a new town. Deep down however Chihiro's adherence to rules and values help her greatly through her journey in the Spirit World. Chihiro leaves the spirit world a more, independent and self-reflective girl and realizes that moving is nothing compared to the real challenges of growing up.
This film is a great introduction to the themes in Japanese culture. However, western culture is also included in the reproduced version subtitled in English. The whole film is placed in a fantasy context where spirits and spiritual beings exist. This is derived directly from Shinto folklore where it is believed that everything in the universe is has Kami. Kami is basically believed to be the spirit that dwells in all things. In Spirited Away this aspect of Japanese culture is explored through the wide variety of Spirit world inhabitants. Also, the movie is drawn in a bathhouse, and this obviously relates to Japanese culture and beliefs of how spirits end their day by resting in a bathhouse.
An indication of a reflection of Japan through Hayao's eyes comes in the scene, where Haku gets reminded of his true identity by Chihiro. In it she mentions that the river was drained and covered with apartment blocks. By this Hayao informs the audience of the problems of an over expanding nation and the problems faced by Japan about the reduction of natural landscapes. It is evident that Hayao thinks that it is best for Japan if they preserve natural things and reduce the expansion of their nation, which is what he is trying to convey to his audience.
I realise that western, and particularly Australian audiences can be put off by subtitles. It's pointless to be all righteous when you just want people to see the film. Unless they do, this treasure trove will remain undiscovered, and maybe finding it will encourage people to conquer the subtitle demon as Miyazaki might call it. Spirited Away more than deserves to be in the Brisbane International Film Festival, If you allow yourself to become Spirited Away, there are great rewards in store; you will not regret this trip!ReferencesHayao Miyazaki Interview Ponyo, www.collider.com, 2009. http://www.collider.com/2009/08/09/hayao-miyazaki-interview-ponyo/ Accessed 21 October 2009.
Miyazaki, www.nausicaa.net, http://www.nausicaa.net/miyazaki/miyazaki/. Accessed 21 October 2009.
Spirited Away, www.imbd.com, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0245429/. Accessed 21 October 2009.
Japanese Shinto Folklore Legends. www.Angelrainbows.com. http://www.angelrainbows.com/Myths_Legends_Folklore_Epics_Tales_Storytelling_Japanese_Shinto_Folklore_Legendary_Kami.htm. Accessed 21 October 2009 Accessed 28 October 2009.