Studio Ghibli films are good for the soul. When Marnie Was There, the studio’s supposed swansong, is no exception. With beautiful visuals and rich storytelling, it showcases exactly what it is that make their films so special.
It tells the type of story that Ghibli could only do so well, one which combines ghostly goings-ons with a touching coming-of-age tale. The central character is Anna, a twelve-year-old girl who appears to be in the throes of pre-teen angst. However, her levels of self-loathing – she constantly repeats how much she hates herself – as well as her severe asthma, are such a cause for concern that her step-mother decides to send her to the country, to spend time with her aunt and uncle.
Whilst there, Anna take a keen interest in an abandoned mansion. There she meets Marnie, a mysterious girl of a similar age who claims to live in the home. The two quickly form a friendship, which becomes something much deeper as they help each other come to terms with the sadness in both their lives.
Adapted from Joan G. Robinson’s book, it is the story and characters that prove to be the film’s biggest accomplishment. Once again pushing the boundaries of what one might think possible in animation, When Marnie Was There features characters which feel fully realised and fleshed out – more so than some of those seen in live-action film.
Without giving too much away, Anna is a very different person by the end of the film than she was at the beginning. Throughout the film you completely feel as if you are going on a journey with her, and as the story progresses you can almost physically see the character change before your eyes, as if Anna is somehow being drawn differently.
Not only does the story have investable and believable characters, but it weaves a genuine mystery full of twists and turns. However predictable you might find the ending, it is nevertheless moving enough to bring a grown man to tears – fuelled even more by the prospect that this could in fact be the final film from the studio.
Whilst there’s nothing on offer that’s quite as visually memorizing as last year’s The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, the levels of detail that have gone into the film’s intricate animation are remarkable. Like other works from the Studio Ghibli back catalogue, When Marnie Was There acts as a breath of fresh air and transports you to nature. The way in which the country is drawn means that you can almost smell the sea, taste the fresh fruit and vegetables, and feel the sand beneath your feet.That’s exactly what When Marnie Was There feels like; a really good holiday which you know has to end, but can’t help but wish it wouldn’t.
As far as where it sits in the Studio Ghibli canon, this isn’t a masterpiece like films such as the aforementioned Princess Kaguya, Princess Mononoke or Spirited Away. It is, however, still extremely special; a film which is as visually arresting as it is emotionally engaging and which proves the in spite of dealing with witches, ghosts and the like, Studio Ghibli will always be remembered for storytelling that is more human than most.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com