Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Words – Christian Abbott
In film circles you will often hear the phrase “every frame a painting”. An experience, both poetic and practical, used to describe the inherent beauty of cinema. Cinematography, lighting, editing, and more, all can come together to create some of the most striking images in artistic history.
When it comes to animation, perhaps this phrase takes on a slightly different meaning, but from the same place. It’s even more literal, especially when used for the 2D world.
When describing the work of Miyazaki and specifically describing the film Kiki’s Delivery Service, there is perhaps no more an amp description.
Following a young witch in training, we see her move to a small seaside town alone (but with her talking cat), for one year as is tradition for all aspiring witches. While there she learns how to fly her broom and decides to capitalise on this advantage – by opening up a delivery service.
This is perhaps in many ways one of the more straightforward of premises for a Miyazaki film, it strips back on grandiose plots and intricate locations. Instead, we follow a young girl opening up a small business in a smaller town. Looking beyond the witch aesthetic and flying household appliances, this captures the joys of everyday life, and celebrates some of the little details within it that we may now just take for granted.
Yes, this is a Miyazaki film through and through, the same sense of wonder and imagination permeates the film in each and every frame, but this is a more intimate affair. Miyazaki would later go on to produce increasingly grounded stories and characters, but this is perhaps the finest balance between grounded and up-in-the-air fantasia. An excellent jumping-off point for the Miyazaki uninitiated.
With witchcraft there can be an underlying darkness beneath the surface of the story, but Miyazaki never allows that to weigh down the film, he keeps it firmly tucked away and out of sight. The focus here is a sense of uplifting joy in a way that this filmmaker has become so beloved for.
Escapism is often seen as a dirty word in cinema, a sort of piffy dismissal. Though, sometimes, given the right film and right talent behind it, it can be the perfect way to describe a story that wonderfully embraces escape. From Kiki coming to a new town to us as an audience getting lost in it, there is no better place to escape to.