Warning: Contains spoilers for both Miyazaki's Spirited Away and Tim Fywell's I Capture the Castle.

Experts on human emotion — I am told there are such — make a distinction between tears of joy and tears of sadness, a distinction which is presumably lost on the Standard American Male, who would just as soon not exhibit either if he can possibly avoid it.

In one regard, I do conform to this standard: I'm embarrassed at the very thought of someone seeing me cry. Which is probably why I waited to see Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away until the DVD was released; from the descriptions and the reviews, I knew I was going to lose it somewhere in the second or third reel.

And I was right; I was so overcome, in fact, that I had to pause the film at about the 50-minute mark — this is the point where Haku tells "Sen" the importance of remembering her real name — and dared not resume for two hours. Even then, there was a sense of foreboding: I knew that if I followed my first impulse and left matters hanging overnight, there would be some sort of mental hell to pay.

In the interim, I tried to catch up on reading my blogroll, but my thoughts kept turning back to poor Chihiro and the uphill task she faced, and how poorly I would have handled a similar difficulty (like there are any "similar difficulties"), and the one 2003 movie I am actually anxious to see: I Capture the Castle, based on Dodie Smith's novel, my favorite book when I was in high school and one I still reread regularly, a film which will probably never, ever play here in the hinterlands. (And I guarantee I won't make it through the first reel of that one.)

And there's a marked difference between Chihiro Ogino and Cassandra Mortmain. Chihiro and her family are eventually freed from the spirit world and all its suffering; Cassandra, happy because Simon Cotton has escaped the prospect of a marriage of convenience, nonetheless realizes that she still loves him and the suffering has only just begun. There is, I suppose, a marked difference between tears of sadness and tears of joy. But I can split that difference: I have held back so much for so long that when the tears finally come, they contain elements of both. I cry because I fear for Chihiro's safety, and I cry because the world she inhabits, terrible as it is, is so beautiful. I cry because I know Cassandra and Simon will never be together, and I cry because I know she will never give up hope. And somewhere in the midst of all those tears, I cry for myself, because I feel so utterly inadequate to the tasks these two girls face and completely undeserving of whatever rewards they may receive. Now that's embarrassing.

The Vent

#349
13 July 2003



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