Most of the art that I like speaks to me on such a deep level that it actually arouses emotions that I oftentimes forget are there. Music is far and away the art-form that speaks to me most clearly, but I want to talk about films, visual art.
It’s the films that make me cry that I know are the best. Often-times, it’s not that they’re sad necessarily that causes me to cry, but it’s that they bring out these emotions that I know will go away as soon as the film is over, and I don’t want them too. They remind of a part of myself that is hidden in some dark corners within myself, that in everyday life I can’t bring all the way out, into the light. The most recent of these is Spirited Away, the animated film by Hayao Miyazaki.
Chihiro worked so well for me as a main character; she was young, naive (but not stupid), charming, and most importantly, she had character. I could connect with her from the VERY beginning of the movie, when she’s reading her farewell card in the bouquet of flowers, complaining about moving to a new city. I knew right away there was something special about her, a mystery that made her less than a normal, scared 10-year-old girl in a big new world. She was different, aloof in a way. Mature not in her actions, personality or physique, but in the way she understood things and thought about the world. In short, she reminded me of myself.
I was enthralled throughout the entire movie, of course for the beautiful animation and the wild imagination of Miyazaki, but more than anything for the story and the characters. Chihiro grows up, in a way, as the movie goes on and she experiences different things, but she never loses one important quality: acceptance. The most valuable quality of childhood, the one that makes me sad as I watch it disappear in children as they get older. Unconditional kindness and love. She has it for everyone, she’s able to forgive everyone (and does, in the end).
No Face is my favorite example of the importance of this unconditional kindness, and is my second favorite character in the film. To me, he represents most of the people in modern society; lonely, sad, hiding behind a smiling mask, and immediately attracted to the genuine kindness shown by Chihiro. When he is rejected by her the first time, he becomes upset, and craves the attention of everyone else, “eating it all up” if you will 😛 No Face is not truly happy with the many things he indulges himself with, but he pretends to be, and over time becomes more and more moody, angry, and gluttonous. Chihiro, in the end, rejects him for the last time, but not because she doesn’t like him, because she knows what’s wrong and that she isn’t the answer to his happiness. In the end, No Face’s happiness comes in the form of a simple life out in a village, in the company of a witch, who appreciates him and recognizes his talents. He’s not lonely anymore, he’s found his place and feels like he belongs, thanks to Chihiro’s help. Same for Haku, who is reminded of his real name by Chihiro towards the end of the movie.
In fact, by the end of the movie, the one person who doesn’t seem to have “found her place,” truly, is Chihiro. I think this is symbolized by the fact that the hair tie she received in the other world flashes at the end of the movie, reminding us that she was truly there and has left a part of herself there in a way. She exists in two different worlds, a mediator, a person who helps others find their own way but never stops long enough to find her own. And it’s THAT thought that made me cry at the end of the movie.
Some of us are born to fill that role it seems. To help others. And we lose our way more often than anyone else I think, because we forget that our place isn’t one specific location. It causes more harm than good sometimes. I admit that I’ve lost my way more times than I count, I’ve had selfish thoughts, wondering why I help others just so that they can be happy and then forget about me, no longer needing someone unstable in their lives. But that’s the point, isn’t it? To embrace it, to cherish our talents and our understanding of the world, to not withdraw ourselves. To not think about how horrible the world is, but to help it become a better place, because we’re the only ones who can. To remove the masks and stop being “No Faces,” and to show our real smiles and laughter underneath.
I highly recommend Spirited Away to anyone who hasn’t seen it. I apologize if the post was all over the place, I can’t be sure because I’m simply writing all of my thoughts quickly… but anyway. At least tonight I know, and I won’t forget my place… at least tonight I can sleep comfortably, with a little bit of Chihiro in my heart 🙂