“Spirited Away” Returns to Theaters!
by Sophie Lee
This October, “Spirited Away” returns to the big screen in the 2017 Studio Ghibli Fest. The animated film, originally released in 2001, tells the story of a young girl as she navigates her way through a spirit realm. Fathom Events and GKIDS have partnered up to bring six of director Hayao Miyazaki’s films back to theaters. Miyazaki is one of the creative forces behind Studio Ghibli and helped found the film studio in 1985.
His films are often characterised by their emphasis on humans’ relationship with nature and strong anti-war themes. Many of his movies pit nature against modern military technology. In “Castle in the Sky,” an ancient castle that floats above the Earth has been corrupted by modern weaponry and the characters fight to save it from destruction. In “Howl’s Moving Castle,” a wizard is forced to fight in a war that he doesn’t support and every time he leaves, he gets closer to not being able to return to his human form. Through his portrayal of war’s devastating consequences, Miyazaki uses his films as a chance to teach young audiences about the consequences of violence.
Another consistent element in Miyazaki’s films is his portrayal of strong female characters. Many of his protagonists are young girls and they always push against the traditional representation of women. Miyazaki makes a point to not sexualize the girls he creates for his leads. He also shows the girls’ fearless and fighting spirits as they take the lead in solving whatever problems they may face. This mission was part of what formed the idea for “Spirited Away.” Miyazaki has said that the inspiration for the movie’s protagonist, Chihiro, was a young 10 year old girl he knew. He had looked at the options of books and movies for girls her age and saw they were all based on romance. He wanted to create a character girls could admire for her strength and bravery.
“Spirited Away” is the most widely known product of Studio Ghibli and has become a staple in Japanese animated films. The New York Times ranked “Spirited Away” as the second best film of the 21st Century thus far and it is the highest grossing film in Japan, where it was first released. After its domestic success, Disney translated the film into English and released it to American audiences in 2002. It has remained a classic in children’s animated movies, but the compelling storytelling and masterful production of the film make it an enjoyable watch for all audiences.
The movie begins with Chihiro and her family moving into their new home. On the ride over, her father decides to take a shortcut and lands them in the middle of the woods. The parents get out of the car to inspect an underpass and lead Chihiro towards what they believe to be an open restaurant. It quickly becomes apparent that the setting is not what Chihiro’s parents believe it to be and they are turned into pigs as punishment for eating food that was not theirs. Chihiro finds herself on her own, trying to figure out how to stay safe among spirits and creatures she has never seen before. She ends up working in a bath house that serves the spirits and befriends many of the workers. They help her stay on the good side of the powerful witch who runs the business and she tries to fight to get her parents back so they can return home. The film takes many twists and turns as Miyazaki brings his magical world to life. It also adheres to Miyazaki’s traditional values. In the spirit realm, greed and corruption, like that of Chihiro’s parents, is met with punishment while the bravery and empathy that Chihiro possesses is what helps her prevail.
This month, the film will be playing Oct. 29th and 30th, as well as Nov. 1st. The showings on the 29th and 1st will be in English while the one on the 30th with be subtitled. As a part of the festival, short films from around the world will also be shown alongside the film.