Yesterday I went to see the latest Studio Ghibli film, When Marnie Was There (思い出のマーニー) (2014), directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi (米林 宏昌). Yonebayashi also directed the Studio Ghibli film Arrietty (借りぐらしのアリエッティ) (one of my favourites), and both films are based on British books. When Marnie Was There is based on the children’s book of the same name by Joan G. Robinson. The book is set in Norfolk in the UK, but the film cleverly resets the story in Hokkaido (北海道), partly in Sapporo (札幌) and partly in Kushiro (釧路).
When Marnie Was There tells the story of Anna Sasaki, an introverted 12-year-old girl who lives with her foster parents in Sapporo. Due to her asthma and ill health, she is sent to live with relatives in Kushiro for the summer to recuperate in the clean air.
Anna likes to draw, and her interest soon takes her out to the marshes where she sits and draws a mysterious house which appears to be abandoned.
One night Anna runs away from the Tanabata festival after she is made fun of for her blue eyes and ends up at the house. Here she meets Marnie, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl who appears to live in the house with her family. Anna and Marnie are instant friends, and over the course of the film they have a number of encounters and adventures.
One day Anna meets Hisako, an older lady who also sketches by the marsh. Hisako tells Anna the house is being renovated, having been abandoned for so long, and a new family is moving in. Anna runs to the house to discover this is true, and instead of seeing Marnie there she meets Sayaka, a younger girl who is moving in to the house.
Together Sayaka and Anna uncover the truth of the story of Marnie, and by the end of the movie an even bigger truth is uncovered regarding Anna’s own history. I won’t put too many spoilers here, but it wasn’t too hard to work out how the story was going to end.
Some people who have seen When Marnie Was There have told me how very sad it was, but I have to say that wasn’t my feeling. Parts of the film certainly are very sad, but I actually thought it was a very sweet story and I didn’t come out of the cinema feeling blue. I really enjoyed the film, and would certainly recommend it to anyone who liked Arrietty. Although When Marnie Was There is set in Japan and is full of beautiful Japanese scenery and cultural touches, it is less Japanese than other Studio Ghibli classics, such as My Neighbour Totoro. Some people might criticise the film for this, but I don’t think it should be criticised. I think it’s a wonderful interpretation of a children’s book, and a film which should appeal to young and old alike.
Watch the trailer and see what you think! I also LOVE the song, ‘Fine on the Outside’ by Priscilla Ahn, which is used in this trailer and in the final credits of the film. Actually, this beautiful song made me feel more sad than the film did!
Even though Hayao Miyazaki, director and co-founder of Studio Ghibli has apparently retired (we’ll see – he’s notorious for having announced his retirement a number of times!), Studio Ghibli continues to produce fantastic animated films. The next film due to be released is a French-Japanese production called The Red Turtle, which I think is due for release in France this month and in Japan in September. I’m sure it will be ages before it reaches our shores, but for now here’s the trailer…