Thursday, 9 May 2019

When Marnie Was There

This 2014 Studio Ghibli film, original title Omoide no Mânî, is one of a number of masterpieces of animation created at the studio. To quote Wiki, Studio Ghibli is a Japanese animation film studio founded in 1985, based in Tokyo and is best known for its anime films.

It's easy for people in the west to pass these films off as poor relations compared to what comes out of American production firms, but the class of animation is cult-in-style and purposefully not the near-real-life leanings created across the other side of the Pacific. The topic is a broad one and I'd point you to Wiki first if you're interested in following a path of exploration about Japanese animation.

In the meantime, I'll talk about this film. It's about a girl called Anna who has been taken into a foster family following the death of her parents. She's not thriving and discovers that the family are being paid to keep her - as professional foster parents. She's not making friends, has low self-esteem and this is impacting her physical health more as time goes on. The medics can't get to the bottom of it but eventually one suggests that the asthma she is suffering, apart from anything else, might be improved if she went away to stay with relatives on the coast for a while.

The foster mother, who, although, yes, being paid, is distraught and Anna is not opening up and telling her how she feels and why. She gets sent off to stay with relatives and this is where the adventure begins. She remains a loner but starts to explore in an nonjudgmental, open environment where the relatives show her nothing but warmth and care.

There's a house over the water where she bumps into Marnie, a girl with long blond hair, who she can't quite work out. One time she goes to the house and it's full of life, the next time, derelict. Marnie only turns up now and then and Anna starts to wonder if she exists at all. Just when she begins to give up on Marnie, up she pops again. Then the house is sold and the derelict premises is overhauled. A new girl is a part of the incoming family, who starts to find clues in the house as to who Marnie is, was, and what the mystery is all about. No prizes for guessing the outcome, that through a series of relations and a closely-knit set of constructs in the story, Anna finds her self-esteem, works out much about her background, her place in the world and moves forward in a positive way, making friends and becoming whole.

The style of animation is charm itself, the music is a delight throughout and the story unfolds at just the right pace in order to keep the viewer interested. Yes, on the face of it, it's a children's film with a moral tale to tell, but it's also very much pitched at adults and certainly kept this one's attention. I have watched and enjoyed another Ghibli production, quite widely known as their best - Spirited Away - and this one is really not far from offering the same quality and charm. I watched a version in Japanese with subtitles, but you can also get a dubbed version, which certainly kids would do better with - if they don't understand Japanese, that is! Highly recommended - I shall be looking for more.

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