The Spiriting Away of Topher and Chris

One of the first things we did after Mom introduced us was watch Jurassic Park together. I’m not sure why you chose this particular movie, you just like watching movies. The walls of your house are lined with posters, and you attend so-called ‘classes’ at the local art theater any week you can.

Until you entered my life, movies were this minor thing for me – I liked cartoons, but even then, I was happy enough to turn on Cartoon Network. My attention span was short and movies felt so long.

One day you introduced me to IMDB, and I decided to check out the top 250 list. I hadn’t heard of most of the movies, and I mainly sought out the animated films. I had seen most, besides a few from Japan. The one that stood out was Spirited Away – I remembered seeing it at the video store, and I was surprised to see it all the way in the top 50. It seemed like something worth checking out.

It’s hard to describe the feeling of that first watch – it felt like nothing was going to be the same again. Truthfully, several films might have triggered that revelation, but Spirited Away got there first.

There’s that sequence where Chihiro takes the train, and she looks ahead as her face is reflected in the window. It’s this quiet moment that says so much – of growing up in a scary new world. The entire film carries this air of joyous melancholy – the innocence of childhood shed and replaced by the confidence of a knowing maturity.

I sat in awe at the closing shot – Chihiro staring longingly at the entrance to that other world, both haunted and vitalized by her experience. So much can be said in a glance. It moved me almost to tears – for the first time, it felt like I had found something truly beautiful in this world.

When we returned the video to the store, I immediately picked up Fantasia and 2001: A Space Odyssey. I had something to drive me – if Spirited Away could make me feel so alive, there had to be others.

My whole life, I’ve been chasing the high of that first time. Very few works have touched me as much – the pieces falling into place the second time through Mulholland Drive, the two women’s faces spliced together near the end of Persona, that final question and responding scream as the third season of Twin Peaks closed out – and they all spoke more to horror than love. But I don’t need that gentle beauty Spirited Away blanketed me in – cinema itself has left me in awe.

I’m so grateful you’ve been a part of my life. Whether or not it was your goal, you helped me find my driving force. I spent my childhood chasing after this idea of a father figure, and you gave me more than I had imagined possible. Even though my goals sometimes feel impossible, you’ve always encouraged me to chase them. I always seem to credit finding Spirited Away as my entry point into the art of cinema – but really, it was you.

I just hope someday I have the strength to say these things to you directly. That you helped shape me into the person I am today, that I’m thankful I have you. I love you like I imagine a child loves their father – because that’s what you are to me.

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