Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.



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Spirited Away

Film #288


In the middle of her family’s move to the suburbs, a sullen 10-year-old girl wanders into a world ruled by gods, witches, and monsters; where humans are changed into animals; and a bathhouse for these creatures.

Year 1, Day 293

BEFORE: As the insane mayhem continues to ensue in Boston and the entire city is in lockdown, my suite wanted to watch a movie so the next on my list, Spirited Away, was suggested. Miyazki returns to the marathon with his fifth and with it my continuing optimism. His record has been a bit hit and miss with Castle in the Sky being my favorite thus far but all others failing to live up to that level. I’m curious to see how Spirited Away matches up.

AFTER: After the film was over I was told that most (if not all) Miyazaki films are better on a second viewing and I can see why. The biggest source of where these films are made is the story. Animation and the visual style of Miyazaki’s films are all important elements and add considerably to the entertainment, but the story is what makes it sing because it’s the most tangible thing you can connect with. That’s why I found Spirited Away more enjoyable that some of the previous ones - it had a mysterious and strange feel to it and it was great.

Visually, there’s nothing really new. Spirited Away looks the same as the past four films and as was the case for those, it contributes to the other elements (sound, story, etc.). I won’t spend to much time describing that but I will go in depth on the story. Right from the beginning a lot of questions are raised. To say it’s straightforward and everything is easy to understand would be a gross understatement. In fact, for most of the film, everything you’re left wondering what exactly is happening. Now it’s not so confusing that nothing is able to be understood. Obviously you are able to ascertain a development and see that things are changing. It’s more along the lines that why things are happening that’s confusing. Chihiro (Daveigh Chase) is in some sort of spirit world filled with all these rules about what she can do (as a human among spirits) and with the controlling Yubaba (Suzanne Pleshette) lording over everyone.

Confusion can be good and in the case of Spirited Away it is. It made the film intriguing; providing a sense of mystery that had me curious and invested throughout. At the same time however, I feel it was too much. There needs to be a certain level of answers, or at least clues to the answers, for you to come out of a film satisfied rather than annoyed and Spirited Away was just ever so annoying in that regard (plus in terms of characters - Chihiro is especially annoying as a character). But this is where that first point comes back: second viewings. This review and my opinion is based on just this one viewing. I think it’s representative of the film itself but at the same time I do see, especially for this film, how a second viewing could resolve many of the story’s confusing plot points. Recommendation: well worth a watch.

RATING: 4 out of 5