Spirited Away

Spirited Away ★★★★★

Well…yeah there’s no point in arguing against the common sense on this one, this is the greatest thing ever made by both Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki, point and period. Though yeah, an already sure granted classification deserved to all major films from both the studio and the director, undoubtedly, and something that only testifies how much on a creation level, most any of Miyazaki’s films (and Ghibli’s) can easily be argued and considered as being their best, so classifying Spirited Away of the same it ain’t anything of new. But there’s to be argued over how much the creation level achieved here, from the animation stand point, the character’s journey narrative thematics, the visual storytelling, etc, all marked to be the highest point of Ghibli’s and Miyazaki’s careers!

From the initial get go and on, you face right away on how much the direction plunges into a spiral unlike anything that has ever been done so far in the Ghibli films, by the first shot being the audience putted on a first-person shot view is Miyazaki directly putting the entire direction’s eye sight tone and structure from our protagonist point of view to the world she lives and the one she’s about to emerge in. An from that you can grasp on the real wondermentally scale of beauty coming from the way we are putted at the point of perspective from Chihiro, getting to feel, fear, and contemplate everything she comes across once she gets trapped in the otherworldly universe of ghosts and creatures, in a complete spiral of tension and confusion.

It’s a movie that doesn’t waste no time to get where it wants to and delves right in there in structurally flawless pacing, where the assembling, the rhythm, the insane controlled energy, it’s all Miyazaki at the prime of his craft, once again! Creating a world where every little bit of piece of it may be resembling or meaning bigger than you’re ought to think, and even by then you may not even really get to grasp the full deepen symbolisms, the mythology, and all the multiple layered compositions covered throughout all the amazing set designs and the peculiar shaped characters and mythical beings thrown in the screen, each with weird charming personalities, threatening and likeable by the same thin extent.

It’s more than just a ‘Alice in Wonderland’ in Japanese clothing and a dreamlike reality absorbing our protagonist in search of a way to escape it, is a complete ‘Inception hole’ of reality itself. And it’s all the more insane for how much all of that transfigurative reality departs from a center of purity and innocence that the story transpires in all its different mix of tones, going from the childlike fantasy adventure with inspirational traces taken from Wizard of Oz, even making Chihiro having her own later search for the distant witch alongside her new magical creature friends towards to find a way to go back home; along the straight up allegorical surrealism from Alice in Wonderland, the grotesque shocking horror, the coming of age drama; it’s all here and it all works tremendously well alongside each other in one impressive coherent line of creation thought.

So much so that there may lack some words to define exactly, not perfectly, everything assembled here, because it’s a film that just leaves you in a state of awe by every minute that passes along. But the clear picture of what’s behind Spirited Away is that is a fantasy about fighting for one-self conscious of reality and existence. About keeping identity and memory alive through the struggle of a childhood phase of life where our central character in Chihiro finds herself, far already felling more lost than ever in her current reality, being homesick and anxious to get rid of the feeling of extreme needy and personal and intimate loneliness that she feels, being just a young spoiled girl by the perfectly middle class parents.

And through that same feeling of helpless that she gets into, is also when she discovers a hard-working path of struggle, not just to survival in this living nightmare world, but also to gain maturity, and prove her own value and worthiness of belonging into one place that there might not be real villains after all, just the real nature of things in the surreal fantastical environments and creatures that, as always in Ghibli philosophy, aren’t far from our own reality at all. Making Chihiro to experience and discover, by getting to know these people, the laws and culture, and the ambiguous doubts about everyone, but also the unexpected feeling of respect, help and fondness she creates through her efforts and self-independence; a sense of personality and attitude towards the world and the way she acts and thinks towards others.

Just the briefest of scenes like the train ride, one long quiet contemplation that hardly no other animation out there would have the guts to pull off, cements that idea just through visual purity in the storytelling. By putting our protagonist, self-reliant alone, (along her small and weird cute companions), going on the search to help her friend Haku whom she shares a deep mystery and almost spiritual connection to, as to find a way of going back home; and making her just stare the outside fantastical and spiritual world where she’s travelling, she sees the immensity, the vastness of the world and her own smallness in her midst of it, knowing that she is all alone despite everything, and that she can only count on herself to cross to the other side and get where she wants and nos to get lost on the vastness of reality. No better metaphor to life itself than just this simply perfect amazing little scene.

In the middle of all that intimate epic of self-discovery, there’s also a place for Ghibli’s and Miyazaki’s usual trademark to go against everything that resembles the western consumerism that wrongly influences the Japanese culture, to find some extra room here, which it does in the figurative evil of exacerbated consumerism, allegorically represented in the form of the almost ghostly cursed scenarios like the bath house takes on everyone who enters it, be Chihiro parents who turn into pigs after eating like one, or the faceless ghost being that departs from a friendly figure to a consumerist demon wanting to belong to that environment by assuming this horrendous form of golden wealthy and uncontrolled eater.

Bum him to, like Chihiro, is seemingly trying to find a place of belonging and acceptance, which I presume that’s another one of the complex layered points the film makes about opting for the hard work, for the bonds created in a natural way, in the resilience in keeping or own spirit and memories of decency intact in the face of the seductive evils of life. But once again, not formed by evil figures, Miyazaki refuses to demonstrate things in that black and white form, but rather showcase it as how the order of things are, and how one can live in peace, purity, kindness and faith even in a world of uncontrollable and scary forms of injustice. Where we can trace our own path towards escaping those fears and meeting again to what defines the people we are.

Again, might just be scratching the surface of a multi-heavy-layered masterpiece, what Spirited Away mostly precisely is. I didn’t even found the place to mention the PHENOMENAL score from Joe Hisaishi whom is a living god, but it makes it work to immerse us in this intimate self-adventure that our resilient protagonist Chihiro goes through to escape the sadness and fears that trapped her in one never-leaving place, and being able to live the true epic adventure ahead of her at the end of this story, her entire life. Another emotionally resonant fantastically dark and pure story where anyone could say with sparing reason that it’s ‘THE FILM’ that perfectly sums up all of Miyazaki's and Ghibli’s great cinema. Well, one in hundreds, but one pitch perfect choice to such task!

Raphael Georg liked these reviews