Spirited Away (2001)
Hayao Miyazaki has retired for what he assures us is the last time, having previously revoked such claims. The Japanese maestro has been responsible for some of the finest animated films of the last 30 years weighing in with the likes of Laputa (1986), My Neighbour Totoro (1988) and Princess Mononoke (1997). However, it is his Oscar winning classic, Spirited Away (2001) that I have put forward as Miyazaki’s finest.
Worryingly, the film almost never happened. Ready for retirement after Princess Mononoke, Hayao Miyazaki was only persuaded to return to work after meeting the daughter of a friend, with the little girl being the inspiration for the film’s protagonist, Chihiro.
The beauty of Spirited Away is in the transformation of Chihiro. She begins the film as a spoilt brat, complaining at her parents for moving house and unhappy at the prospect of starting a new school. Chihiro is forced to fend for herself when her parents are turned into pigs and imprisoned by Yubaba, ruler of a bathhouse devoted to the cleansing of visiting spirits. Forced to work for survival, Chihiro gradually displays a resilience that enables her to overcome the many challenges she faces.
The scenes in Spirited Away are immaculate from the frantic workers in the bathhouse to the flight of Chihiro’s friend, Haku, when he takes on the form of a dragon. However, the best comes near the end when Chihiro goes on a train journey. The railway is surrounded by water with the tracks barely protruding from the surface. At this point a long contemplative shot of Chihiro is enough evidence that she has changed dramatically on this truly remarkable journey.
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