Le Voyage de Chihiro

Pleurtuit is now home to a médiathèque!  For those of you wondering what the difference between a médiathèque and a traditional bibliothèque is (as I would translate them both into English using the word “library”), the former refers to an entity that only lends books while the second lends CDs and, more importantly, DVDs as well.  I signed the four of us up for a family membership for the modic sum of 7€/year.

Studio Ghibli Postcard featuring the bridge from Le Voyage de Chihiro

Anthony chose two DVDs for us to watch this week–Inception (2010) and Le Voyage de Chihiro (2001) by Hayao Miyazaki.   We haven’t watched Leonardo DiCaprio’s film yet but we did spend last Sunday night with Chihiro.  Anthony had already seen it but it was a first for me.  (One of his military service friends was a big Studio Ghibli fan and they saw it in the movies together in Paris.)

To begin with, I think it’s interesting to compare the English and French titles as they don’t highlight the same ideas/parts of the story.  The French title, Le Voyage de Chiriho, for example, emphasizes two key points–the main character, Chihiro, and her journey (voyage).  The English title put an entirely different spin on the story.  Spirited Away hints at the spirit world in which the majority of the action takes place.  Taken together the two words of the title also indicate that something has been taken or carried away in a secret, almost mysterious manner.  I wish I knew what the Japanese title was–what does it emphasize?  What does it seek to inspire when you hear it?  For that matter, I wonder how else it’s been translated and with what purpose?  What has it lost or gained in translation?  I could do an entire post on French/English movie titles and their pitfalls but that’s not my goal here today.  Can you tell that I find languages and translation in particular fascinating?

Trying to write a brief plot summary is not one of my strong points but here we go…  The movie opens with Chihiro and her parents driving to their new home.  After her father takes a detour down a dirt road–let’s hear it for short-cuts–the family ends up parked next to a tunnel.  Chihiro’s parents decide to explore it, and despite her reluctance, Chihiro ends up following them.  The tunnel opens up into a strange deserted town (or amusement park).   Her parents are immediately at ease and curious unlike Chihiro who just wants to leave and return to their car.  Chihiro’s father follows his nose to an empty restaurant where a buffet of hot food awaits.  While her parents eat, Chihiro, still uneasy, begins to explore the town more on her own.  As evening falls, she comes across a boy who tells her that she must leave immediately.  Lamps begin to come on signalling night and the dawn of the spirit world.  Chihiro races back as the town fills with spirits to find her parents turned into pigs!  At this point, Haku, the boy who warned her to flee, returns promising to help her survive in the spirit world and save her parents.  It was at this point, that the movie truly grabbed my attention.  Chihiro’s quest came alive for me at the same time as the spirit world gained form.  Looking at it from Western eyes, I admit that I’m probably missing the majority of references/inspiration to/from Japanese mythology.  I’m sure such a background would make the story even richer.  You don’t need it, though, to be caught up in the pure imagination required to create such a world nor to deeply care about the people and characters who inhabit it.

For Studio Ghibli fans visiting Japan, a visit to the Ghibli Museum is a must!  More on that another day though…the sandman is calling me!

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One Response to Le Voyage de Chihiro

  1. PostMuse says:

    We rented Neko no Ongaeshi (The Cat Returns) a few months ago and enjoyed it very much. That is also Studio Ghibli.

    And .. Inception is wonderful! I saw it in the movie theatre and just couldn’t get it out of my head for days and days.

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