Hayao Miyazaki

DVD reviews

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 May, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 May, 2003, 12:00am


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Spirited Away

Starring (the voices of): Rumi Hiiragi, Miyu Irino, Mari Natsuki, Yumi Tamai

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

The film: Japan's animation master Hayao Miyazaki did the unthinkable with Spirited Away - he surpassed his fabulous Princess Mononoke (1997), a film that had set box office records in his homeland. But Spirited Away became the most-watched Japanese film of all time and picked up the Oscar for best animated feature this year.

Spirited Away has charm in spades. It's a fairy tale in the classic sense. A young girl, Chihiro (below), finds herself lost and alone in another world and must make her way home. From the start we know this is no ordinary lass. When her parents stumble upon an abandoned theme park, it is Chihiro who senses danger and calls for caution. But her parents don't listen, and they soon fall under a spell.

Chihiro finds herself in the place where all the gods go for a little R&R - full of the most strange and wonderful creatures you could imagine. The animation is not of the heavy-handed Hollywood variety: Miyazaki uses a much lighter brushstroke - and to quite stunning effect.

The attention to detail is an infinite celebration of the art of animation too; rather than awe us with how 'life-like' he can make things appear, Miyazaki celebrates the very fact that these are drawings brought to life. The gods are constantly changing shape as they dance through the central storyline and the cast of characters is seemingly endless.

There's depth to it all too as loyalties are put to the test and the lesson to be learned is plain: greed leads to no good.

We follow Chihiro on her journey towards freedom and self-discovery. She starts out frail and nervous and blossoms into one of recent cinema's great heroes.

The extras: A comic-switching function on the bonus disc, which allows you to see the film in just its basic outline. Miyazaki proves a thoughtful and incisive interview subject and shows off his studio.

The verdict: Amazing.