Monday, 30 April 2012

Review: Spirited Away

I don’t need to write a positive review about 'Spirited Away', it already has all the publicity it could ever have had. It was the highest grossing film in Japan when it came out and it went on to break down the film barrier between the east and the west.

It became a gateway film for the uninitiated, pushing new users to try Japanese animation. If for any reason this is a film you have missed, then put it straight to the top of your ‘must-see’ list. Put it there now. Right now.

It is a simple fairy tale, much as we would recognise in the west, but with some huge cultural differences which add a whole different dimension to the story.

The story follows the sullen ten-year-old, Chihiro, she is reluctantly moving to a new neighbourhood with her parents. They become lost, drive off the beaten track and enter territory they really shouldn’t.

Because I am urging you to watch this film for the first time, I will not be giving away spoilers, however what I can say it that the world Chihiro enters is the spirit world. In Japan there is an ancient belief that everything has a spirit and this is represented beautifully here, with the river spirits in need of a bath to rid themselves of pollution and the radish spirit, kind and good for you, if slightly odd looking, and then there are the witches. Dark and sinister or secretly looking out for you? Tropes are used heavily in this film, but because they are used knowingly, and with skill you aren’t left feeling as if you have just seen a line up of clichés, but instead it is a starkly refreshing twist on some of our most deep seated and ancient beliefs.

The animation itself is beautiful, and each frame is a piece of art within itself, Hayao Miyazaki’s attention to detail and use of real life places for inspiration in the artwork ensure that you feel as though you have been taken on a journey to a different world, one that is close to ours but with subtle differences that unsettle the viewer.

Added to this is Joe Hisaishi’s utterly entrancing score. If not for the story, if not for the animation, then watch this film for the score. 

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