千と千尋の神隠し (Spirited Away)
Colour 125 mins
An animated film created by Hayao Miyazaki. A Japanese family move from the city into the suburbs, and blunder through a tunnel into a leisure centre for demons and spirits. The parents are turned into pigs after gobbling up the witchy food, and 10-year old Chihiro finds herself working in the strangest bathhouse as she searches for a way to change her parents back.
The animation is old school compared with the computer animation Hollywood produces. But perhaps because of this Spirited Away more easily transports us into a magical world, where the fantastic makes sense. The images and events in Spirited Away are highly imaginative, and the storyline unpredictable. The film on the surface may be a fable for children, but speaks to adults too.
One theme in the film is Chihiro coming to terms with moving away from the city into the suburbs, her emotional journey. Another theme is family, and discovering how important that is.
Ecology is an important theme in a number of Ghibli's films. The bathhouse speaks of physical cleansing, but also of spiritual cleansing too. Chihiro wins through by being herself, by acting as a catalyst for change, not by force.
Spirited Away is not only one of the greatest cartoon films ever produced, it is one of the greatest films ever produced.