"Makes LOTR look like a 50 year old story written by some old guy"
In its native country of Japan, Spirited Away has just toppled Titanic as the most popular film of all time in that country. It is the first film ever to break the $US200 million box office mark with out it being released in America. It is the most popular non-English speaking film ever having surpassed Life Is Beautiful. All this, and it's been so far released in only a handful of countries. It's time you learnt about this extraordinary film.Hayao Miyazaki has been directing animated films since the early 70s and has earned the nickname as the Japanese Walt Disney. His previous success was with Mononoke Hime in 1997 of which an English overdub version was released in 1999, re-titled Princess Mononoke.
After Mononoke, Miyazaki vowed never to work again. This was later corrected as, "A misunderstanding" (y'know, like Winona Ryder's "misunderstanding," when she got busted for what looked like - for most intents and purposes - shoplifting). Two and a half years later Miyazaki was at work on his next project: "Sen To Chihiro No Kamikakushi" (literally, The Spiriting Away of Sen and Chihiro)
The Lewis Carrol-esque story tells of Chihiro and her adventure to a spirit world not normally seen by humans. Her parents take bored and grumpy Chihiro to what's supposed to be their new home. On the way they discover a tunnel that they walk through.
On the other side is some sort of abandoned market place where they discover delectable food. Chihiro's parents start feasting, yet Chihiro senses something is not quite right. There sure is something not quite right and disaster strikes. Chihiro is eventually forced to work for a bathhouse with a difference to save herself and her parents in a place of spirits, monsters, and witches.
The film has an extraordinary breadth of imagination in its visual style and the varied look and depth of its characters. It's a beautiful fantasy that does not require you to neglect your critical thinking to enjoy the story.
The importance of names and the use of Japanese folklore are major features to the film. The use of folklore and combining it with modern elements is not unlike The Ring films. Not just that Ring of Hobbits elves and wizards, but also the series of Japanese horror films that started with Ring. Spirited Away though does involve a quest and includes a long journey of discovery as part of Chihiro's adventure.
Spirited Away is a type of allegory of Japan's forgotten rich past and its shallow consumerist present. Sounds deep and complicated, yet since the film does keep in mind a younger audience it is a little easier to catch on to than perhaps other Miyazaki films.
It's accessibility and repeated-viewing-demanding visual richness contributed to its commercial success. The film's box office performance is astounding. In breaking the $US200 million mark (according to upcomingmovies.com), it has had deserved and unprecedented success.
Spirited Away brushed aside Planet of the Apes, which was released at the same time in July 2001 in Japan. After this successful opening, according to CNN, Spirited Away became the most commercially successful film released in Japan.
A BVI connection should assure its international distribution. However according to Reuters, Miyazaki is not optimistic about its global success as he thinks that most people will not understand the film.Try it for yourself and find out. Spirited is a very special film indeed and is a joy to watch. It is a film of wonder, magic and astounding imagination.