When Marnie Was There

Now that Winter is here in Australia it gives the perfect excuse (well for me anyhow) to snuggle up and do what I do best in bed; watch films. Film watching to me isn’t JUST a lazy past time, or an excuse when you’re procrastinating from exams. It’s actually a form of art (hear me out before you think I’m completely bonkers) in which you learn a lot and gain insights into human behaviour through characters, their journeys, transformations and how they interact with others and themselves. You learn the art of rhetoric in dialogue of different eras and of the human psyche. And of course, the storyline or plot of any film will interest you, inspire and maybe even educate you. This sounds pretty deep and not as I initially intended it to be, but what I’m trying to say is that well, i think that film watching isn’t entirely a waste of time and effort and if you learn to appreciate it, there’s actually a lot you can benefit from.

This month I watched ‘When Marnie was there’ a Studio Ghibli Production which is one of my favourite film productions in the entire universe. Im not an avid anime fan simply because I don’t really follow on with the melodramatic action and fantasy realms, however, Studio Ghibli creates these worlds that are simultaneously creative with fantasy elements tied with reality. And every time I reach the end of a Studio Ghibli movie, I vow that that is my fave film from the production. However, after watching this one, it’s safe to say that I am pretty sure that this IS my favourite one.

The reason why I adore this film so much is because it doesn’t have as much magical or fantasy encapsulated elements as the other films such as Spirited Away, Totoro or Ponyo. The film reverberates on a 12 year old girl Anna who feels isolated and alone, finding comfort in being in the company of her own solace where she can sketch and dream. The main reason she feels this way is because her parents died in a motor accident when she was just a baby, where her aunty became guardian. Additionally, she has asthma and often suffers from asthma attacks, which is the reason why her aunty decided to send her to stay with her other aunty and uncle in the country called Hokkaido for fresh air to help heal and rejuvenate her.There she finally feels some comfort, as she is free to roam around the serenic fields, soaking up the grandeur of natures beauty  and all that it has to offer.

One day, whilst exploring the beauty villas and open greenery she notices a mansion on the other side of a river. Although she can’t quite understand why, she feels a sense of odd familiarisation with is, as though she’s visited that place before. During the day, the tide is low so Anna is able to walk through the shallow river to reach it. However, at night the river risens forcing her to stay stranded until a friendly fisherman offers her a ride. However, after turning back to one of the windows of this abandoned mansion, she notices a beautiful young girl with blonde hair. Her back is turned but Anna is stunned by her beauty, grace and feels a strange sensation that she knows her.

The next day Anna goes back to the abandoned mansion in hope to see the mysterious blonde girl. The mansion to her is like a magnet, dragging her in waves of confusion, comfort and familiarity. She peers into the house, where the whole place is layered with dust and croaky floorboards. There she finally meets her; Marnie. What blossoms into a beautiful friendship then leads a strange mixture of emotion, as Anna begins to realise that only she can see Marnie. Is Anna imagining all this up? Who is Marnie and why does she disappear sometimes for days?

This film honestly takes you on a journey of emotion, as you feel those exact feelings that Anna experiences of alienation, rejection as she realises that her aunty gets a wage from the government for taking care of her, making her feel like an unwanted puppy. As well as the suspense of the whole persona of Marnie, giving off a creepy yet whimsical feeling of the whole situation. My favourite scene was when Marnie and Anna were at the mansion; Marnie’s house, which comes alive at night with her elegant father and mother hosting a private ball party. She introduces her parents to her new friend Anna and they spend the night dancing under the sky sprinkled with stars, as Marnie hums a soothing tune, promising Anna that they will always remain together forever.

And the ending is so so beautiful as the truth of who Marnie is emerges, promising to astound and take your breath away. As I mentioned earlier, I’m more into films with a sense of reality, of human rawness and emotion and this movie although anime has a very sophisticated and mature tune to it. It focuses on issues such as abuse, isolation, rejection and the importance of love and the feeling of need. And the way that the creation is hand-drawn just adds that delicateness and intimacy throughout the film. Everything about it to me is perfect, from the characters to the music to the visual affects. “When Marnie Was There” is definitely a strong recommendation to watch that will be appreciated from any age and at any time.


  1. I’ve been bing watching a lot of studio ghibli films lately, and reading your post made me look forward to this one. 🙂 and yes, every studio ghibli film showcases exemplary art that you just don’t see in other movies!

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