- Ravi Swami
Spirited Away - Dir: Hayao Miyazaki - 3rd March 2020
Updated: Nov 16, 2020
I had to submit to the painful task of scrolling back through numerous Facebook posts to pinpoint the very first film that I watched under lockdown, but it eventually became clear that there was no exact point in time, and rather like for Chihiro and her parents in the film, it was a long, slow walk into a dark tunnel, to emerge into a strangely familiar and yet alien world, the flip-side of familiar reality.
Having purchased a new wider screen internet-enabled TV in December of 2019 I had spent a lot of time surfing through the various channels available, like Netflix etc, but mainly to catch the latest series or first run films - Netflix in particular are offering all of Hayao Miyazaki's animated feature films so these were an immediate draw during the early days of the Covid 19 lockdown and "Spirited Away", in restrospect, seems like an apt choice, taking into account the unreal-seeming circumstances that everyone had suddenly been plunged into - deserted, bewitched theme parks became a visual metaphor for cities everywhere.
While lockdown seemed like a good opportunity to investigate cinema, both seen and missed, it also became a reason to seek other distractions besides that of TV - so there followed a very short-lived rash of seeking out online, books to read.
This led me to an authorised biography of Hayao Miyazaki by Susan Napier, and now only available in softcover from John Sandoe Books, London, so I promptly put in an order request for the book, which arrived about a month later, obviously delayed as result of the lockdown.
The book provides an exhaustive look at Miyazaki's work and how his life and experiences have helped to shape his world view, something that finds expression in all his films.
Watching films like this on TV, no matter how good the quality - being Netflix, in this case HD and clearly the best quality from the digital master - can never quite match the impact of films when seen in the cinema, but it comes close as far as the sense of immersion into the richly detailed worlds that Miyazaki dreams up.
In the weeks and months prior to lockdown, one hope had been cruelly cut short, which was that I had received a BFI membership as a Christmas present from my daughter and her boyfriend, and it didn't take me long to start planning a year of visits to the BFI South Bank to watch films, the first of which was Miyazaki's breakout hit "Nausicaa and The Valley of The Wind" - a film that I was aware of as far back as the mid-80's during a visit to Japan - the film is included in the line-up of films on Netflix.
Of course, sadly, that hope was dashed - and after booking tickets - and you may be wondering why I didn't immediately settle on the film during the lockdown - that's hard to answer - I think the attraction of other equally loved Miyazaki' films like "The Castle of Cagliostro", "Laputa - Island in The Sky" and previously unseen films like "My Neighbours The Yamadas" - all three to be reviewed in later blog entries - was too great and it was put on the backburner until relatively recently, and without regret because thankfully, Nausicaa is great piece of work and justifiably a classic besides being a groundbreaker, and so was worth the wait.
This was to be my second or third viewing of "Spirited Away" - I have it on BluRay - and it never fails to hold your attention throughout, utterly bewitching you for its duration and immersing you in its atmospheric world.