Spirited Away - Studio Ghibli Fest 2019

Oct 27, 2019

I took my daughter to see Spirited Away at the local theatre today, part of the Studio Ghibli Fest 2019 , reshowing the films on big(ish) screens. Some thoughts:

  • The dad in the movie is peak dad. When they’re driving down the dirt road at the beginning of the film and Chihiro says they’re lost, he responds with “Don’t worry, I’ve got four-wheel drive.” and proceeded to floor it. Again near the beginning, when the parents are eating all of the food, and Chihiro warns them that they’ll have to pay, he replies with, “Don’t worry, you’ve got Dad here. I’ve got credit cards and cash. “ The dad is emblematic of the themes that carry through the movie, that technology doesn’t solve problems and money isn’t the answer to everything, but they nailed that in all of three lines from him.

  • That said, the dad’s Audi is pretty nice. Those late 90s A4s were a classic style.

  • My daughter was terrified of the parents turning into pigs. It is scary in a “this is just too weird” kind of way, and the close up of the pig parents is intentionally horrifying, but I didn’t expect her to react so strongly to it. What I realized as the movie went on is that Chihiro doesn’t get a break for a long time. Until she washes the river spirt (which is, in itself, creepy) she’s dealing with weird monsters, terrifying heights, and the emotional drama of having watched her parents turn into pigs and being forced into indentured servitude. Compare that to something like the The Lion King, where Simba watches his dad die and 20 minutes later he’s singing “hakuna matata”.

My daughter, I think because Halloween is coming up, started listing the things she isn’t afraid of the other day, which went something like “not ghosts, not goblins, not alligators but I am afraid of crocodiles a little bit” and I guess she can add her parents turning into pigs on there with the Nile crocodiles now.

  • On a similar point, my daughter was really nervous that No Face was going to eat Chihiro. She certainly never thought the abominable snowmonster in Frozen was going to eat Anna, and the difference highlights the tension that runs through the film - you’re never really sure what Chihiro’s fate is going to be.

The only other movie we got to see this year for the Ghibli Fest was My Neighbor Totoro. It was definitely the better pick to see with a 4 year old, but even in that one there’s an extended scene where everyone thinks Mei has drowned, and while Totoro is fuzzy he’s far from warm and fuzzy. We missed Kiki’s Delivery Service but I’d like to watch it with her at some point, I recall it being the most Americanized of them, but who knows what parts I’ve forgotten that she’ll find strange.

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