Ghost in the Shell, 2017

Right now I am imagining films as humans/animals. A symbiosis of the tangible and the contextual. Mise-en-scéne, cinematography, editing and sound being the tangible… the skeleton, the organs, the nervous system, the blood…
However, in film and fauna the “What” and the “how” are only thrive when in conjunction with the “Why” and “Who”. I would argue that the narrative is the “Why” and the “Who”. A certain shot could include a number of objects in the frame, but what purpose do they serve? Certain colours, textures and shades are purposely utilised but what thoughts and emotions are they persuading us to experience? If we hold a hand, Who holds us back? When we look into another person’s eyes… Who is smiling back at us?
Film narrative is the contextual quality of films that intrigues me and can be further explained by looking at certain scenes in “Spirited Away” and “Pan’s Labyrinth” that have very open and interpretive narrative meaning.

Spirited Away, 2001

Spirited Away is a film I grew up with and loved as soon as I watched the cinematic trailer, let alone the film itself. But this film is one of those beautiful things that ended up resurfacing in my life so often, it’s as if the film is now a puzzle piece to the larger picture that is my life experience.
A certain scene in particular which depicts Chihiro and No-face boarding a one way train through a vast, flooded expanse of spirit realm is often stated as being one of Hayao Miyazaki’s most pensive scenes ever made. I draw attention to this scene in particular because of it’s very visceral use of storytelling. As soon as the characters sit on the train there is no dialogue. Diagetic sounds of the train carriage and crossing sirens are juxtaposed with spacious, generously times shots and the melancholic piano score of Joe Hisaiashi. This scene insists on the viewer’s experience and interpretation to draw meaning. This scene has been cited as an incredibly strong and emotional tribute to the lost innocence and youthful vigour which dissapates during adulthood, the depiction of Chihiro’s subtle but undoubtedly growing strength and bravery, and even as an analogy for life itself; being a dichotomy between the unknown path that lies before you but also trusting and embracing what lies ahead with determination. The link below is a page that discusses Spirited Away in more detail and also highlights this scene in particular.

Pan’s Labyrinth, 2006

Pan’s Labyrinth is another film that comes to mind when i think about subtext, metaphors and metonyms.
The story is a juxtaposition between cruel, harsh reality and imaginative, fantasy escapism. The film blends themes, imagery and storytelling from both fairy tales and from war narratives to depict the Spanish civil war and the vivid, magical experiences of Ofelia.
Ofelia is addressed as “princess” by Pan (sidenote: The faun addresses himself as “a faun”. His name is only alluded to in the title of the film. This is so meta I will be here all day if I digress to talk about this), she is given a magical book unlike the story books her mother gives her, she is made a beautiful dress to attend a dinner in and she must undergo various magical and dangerous trials to purify and awaken her immortal form.
These motifs are contrasted by her being a lonely child still pining for a fatherly figure after her father passed away, being subjected to an imposing step-parent and being raised by an equally lonely mother in a war-torn Spain.
This film also breaks tropes, however. Ofelia is required to engage in increasingly risky trials that lead to her discarding the dress especially made for her and endangering her and her baby brother’s life. Although it is in the film’s final moments which truly engage the viewer’s experience throughout the film. 
The moment Ofelia is shot by her step father, Captain Vidal, is told as both an incredibly cruel and unjust murder as well as a poetic departure of the immortal soul from her mortal shackles. Although Spirited Away also includes themes of reality vs fantasy, innocence vs adulthood, conflict and economic principles vs escapism and coping, Pan’s Labyrinth offers the life of Ofelia as the bargaining chip in these themes. 
As Ofelia lies, near death, with Mercedes humming her lullaby to her, it is the dual narrative that the viewer is plagued with: Subject her to a violent and horrible end or transcends her soul respite the suffering she has endured.

Thank you for your time!
Aamer Ahmed
Like what you read? Give Aamer Ahmed a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.