Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Folklore In 'Studio Ghibli' Films

As I was searching the net for links to folklore in films I came across this interesting essay that speaks about the various folklore references within the 'Studio Ghibli' films. As the project is heavily influenced by 'cinema anime' I thought I'd take a look. 

Most of the references are of no interest to me or my project but this one I've highlighted seems the most relevant to my work, its got me thinking about a possible scene for my film that I didn't have before.  

Spirited Away (2001) is a story of a young girl who gets trapped in a Bathhouse in the Spirit World. To get back she must go through all the perils of the work in a bathhouse in order to save her parents, whom were turned into pigs upon her arrival. At the sight of her parents as pigs, Chihiro believes she is dreaming, crying out to wake up, for all the bad things to disappear. At this, her body starts to disappear. Our first reference to folklore comes from this point in the film, as Haku, a male apprentice to the powerful owner of the bathhouse, gives Chihiro food from the spirit realm. This is believed to come from Japanese myth, the story of Izanagi and Izanami. Izanami, the mother of Japan died giving birth. Izanagi went to the land of the dead to retrieve her, only to find she had eaten food from that world. It was believed that eating food from a world would make it difficult to return, forcing the eater to stay. In Spirited Away this is evident after eating the spirit food, as she soon seems to forget who she is and what she is doing there. The name of the film; Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (Spirited Away) is also an example of where folklore makes an appearance. The word Kamikakushi literally means to be ‘hidden by kami’, where kami translates as deities. A folk belief was that when a person disappeared for a long time, they had been taken by the spirits into the spirit world. Often it was believed that when the person reappeared, they would be refreshed, finding their own identity. The reference to this in the film is the crossing over of the river by Chihiro and her parents. Once over the river, she cannot return, kept by the spirit world. At the start of the film, Chihiro was a whiney childlike character however after returning from the spirit world, she appears mature and ready for the new challenges of life. Within the title there is also a completely different kind of taking away. The German child’s story ‘Rapunzel’ involves the enchantress of the story taking giving the name Rapunzel to the baby, before taking the child away to the tower where she must remain. In Spirited Away, Chihiro has to sign a contract with Yubaba (the witch and owner of the bathhouse) so that she can work there. In signing the contract, Yubaba owns ¾ of her name, leaving her name as Sen. This way, Yubaba owns Chihiro, also leaving Chihiro with no memory of why she is there. It is believed that only once you get your real name back, can you retrieve your proper identity. In the instances of Spirited Away, both Chihiro and Haku rediscover their real names, and the spell on the contract is broken, leaving Chihiro able to remember her parents, and Haku to return free of Yubaba’s power.

This also references the scene in 'Pan's Labyrinth' where Ofelia eats the food on the banquet table and the monster awakes to capture her and prevent her from to returning home.   

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