Friday, May 22nd, 2015, IFC Center in NYC had its first screenings of Studio Ghibli’s final film When Marnie Was There (思い出でのマーニー Omoide no Marnie), directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, also known for his other most notable work The Secret World of Arietty (借りぐらしのアリエッティ Kari-gurashi no Arietti)
Like many other Studio Ghibli films, this is based on a novel of the same name, written in 1967 by author Joan G. Robinson, a children’s book writer and illustrator from Buckinghamshire, England. Studio Ghibli creator Hayao Miyazaki named When Marnie Was There as one of his “50 recommended children’s books” and a corresponding exhibition “The Blurbs for 50 Books Chosen by Hayao Miyazaki” was held in August, 2010 at the Seibu Ikebukuro department store in Tokyo. When Marnie Was There was fourth on the list.
The plot revolves around a young tomboy, Anna, during a pivotal time of her adolescence. Her foster parents arrange for her to spend a summer away from her hometown of Sapporo in a quaint seaside town of Kushiro to stay with her “aunt and uncle” to recuperate from a debilitating bought of asthma that she has suffered while in school.
She immediately starts to have trouble coping with the move and her new surroundings and in turn finds herself lashing out against those around her, which results in her creating her own mental escape by spending hours enjoying her own company, either sketching or exploring. She stumbles upon a long-abandoned villa across a marsh where she sees the form of a young girl in the top-floor window. Anna becomes enamored with the mysterious girl and finds herself visiting the villa every night, and throughout the film, the viewer struggles to determine if Marnie is real or a figment of Anna’s imagination. Eventually Anna meets and begins to spend time with the mysterious girl, who she discovered is named Marnie, a foreigner with long blonde hair who appears to come from a wealthy family. As they continue to form a relationship with one another, they discover many dimensions of each others’ lives, both jaded and unfortunate. Even though Marnie seems to have everything and more that Anna doesn’t, Marnie wants to be like Anna, who seemingly has very little, lacking in both physical and emotional contact due to family-related issues that are later discussed in the film. It becomes apparent that they are both two sides of the same coin and this film, beautiful yet bittersweet, does have a very surprising and happy ending.
Not to give away too much of the film’s premise, I will conclude that this Studio Ghibli piece is much recommended, as are all of this production company’s works. I hear that the film follows the book closely enough; however, there were some changes/artistic liberties taken, so I recommend reading the book first! It is available on Amazon.com in both physical copy and e-book format. And if you have already seen this film at IFC, as well as other foreign films, please continue to do so and support Japanese and other countries theatrical releases here in New York City! GKIDS, a film distribution company, works with IFC often to release animated and youth-based cinema from around the world. Keep up to date on their releases by visiting http://www.gkidsfilms.com. There is still time to see When Marnie Was There at IFC; showtimes are listed through Tuesday, June 30. Be sure not to miss it.
When Marnie Was There (思い出でのマーニー Omoide no Marnie)
Genre: Animated, Drama
Rating: PG for smoking and thematic elements
Runtime: 1 hr 43 min
Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Production company: Studio Ghibli
Story by: Joan G. Robinson