Hari Lodwick takes a glimpse at the eerie beauty of When Marnie Was There.
I love Studio Ghibli’s films, and religiously saw each release in the cinema as soon as it was out. Somehow, though, the latest and possibly last Studio Ghibli film passed me by. Instead of finding When Marnie Was There on billboards, I found it in the anime section at JB Hi-Fi. Hidden away like a lost treasure.
When Marnie Was There is about Anna, a young Japanese girl with blue eyes, poor health and a troubled past. She moves to a small town and meets a charismatic blonde girl called Marnie who lives a privileged but neglected life in a big mansion by the lake. As Anna and Marnie grow closer, meeting for boat rides and moonlit picnics, Anna realises that she and Marnie have even more in common than she thought.
This film is a gorgeous blend of sweet and sad with a dash of the eerie. The characters are honest and complex and the story is subtle yet gripping. Though pretty, the animation was perhaps not as spectacular as other Studio Ghibli films. This isn’t a showy number like Howl’s Moving Castle or a technical exercise like The Wind Rises. This film is understated and all about relationships and mood. A little like Grave of the Fireflies, with significantly less hysterical sobbing.
When Marnie Was There is a film to be proud of. Although perhaps not my favourite of the studio’s films (Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke tie for that title), it is still a fantastic addition to Studio Ghibli’s canon. If When Marnie Was There is indeed the last Studio Ghibli animated feature, it’s more disappearing behind the mist rather than exploding into fireworks.
Either way, the result is still beautiful.