Part of our special programming series "Studio Ghibli: Dispatches from the Dream Factory"
SPIRITED AWAY is a trip, in the literal, metaphorical and indeed in the d’lysergic senses of that word. Ostensibly, it’s the story of a girl’s voyage into the spirit world to rescue her parents, who, in typical idiotic adult fashion, drive on a road where they shouldn’t drive, eat food they shouldn’t eat and end up getting turned into pigs.
But this premise is, as usual, mainly an excuse for [director Hayao] Miyazaki’s imagination and id to free-associate, channeling and repurposing elements of Eastern and Western mythology, Lewis Carroll’s Alice, E. Nesbit, “Where the Wild Things Are,” George Herriman’s “Krazy Kat” comic strip, Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy and god only knows what else.
This movie is so drug-like that you’ll probably start suspecting at some point that you’re actually asleep, since what’s unfurling on-screen is more like the arbitrary symbolic language of dream than what usually happens on film.