Due to 12 y.o. Anna's asthma, she's sent to stay with relatives of her guardian in the Japanese countryside. She likes to be alone, sketching. She befriends Marnie. Who is the mysterious, blonde Marnie.
A 12-year-old girl is sent to the country for health reasons, where she meets an unlikely friend in the form of Marnie, a young girl with long, flowing blonde hair. As the friendship unravels it is possible that Marnie has closer ties to the protagonist than we might expect.Written by
This film has the honour of being the first anime film that I experienced on the big screen.
I THINK the moments when I was walking out the door after the movie defined what I felt about the film: I overheard a teenage girl saying: 'Don't know about you, but I never noticed violin music in films before this.' Then she proceeds to hum Anna's theme out loud...note by note.
OK, first of all, I don't know what films she has being watching before this, because pretty much every film I watched with a decent score had music I can remember. But even I must admit: The music is the hero in this film, its by far the loudest sound maker in the film, as the strings overwhelms you while the subdued virtual camera pans across typically well-produced Ghibli background art with a bit of light sound effects. I think this film has mastered musically silent scenes...by perfectly contrasting them with scenes where the music takes the reins. The feelings to dread, loneliness and the atmospheric feelings when Anna was exploring the marshes.
I find it intriguing that Marnie's theme was hinted at the beginning, even before the appearance of Marnie, taking its full form about half way into the film, but was never given a full fanfare moment: its a tender woodwind led melody that usually takes the form of a bittersweet waltz, its really quite beautiful to see our two main characters dance to it. Anna's theme; definitely the most memorable theme of the film; is written sorely for tear-jerking. The second phrase of this theme takes the form of a 7 note motif, with the first note jumping almost an octave apart to the second before sliding down with the following 5 notes: vintage nostalgic and beautiful writing. Anyone who can survive these 7 simple notes must have a brick for a heart.
And this basically sums up the music of this film: simple, beautiful and absolutely nostalgic: it is able to etch itself into your brain without the brute force of brass and percussion, relying mainly on tender piano and woodwind solos and a warm strings section. Even the credits song; interestingly sung and written in English; is practically created just to give you nostalgic feelings and tender melancholy.
If I have to describe this film in one word, it would be 'sweet.' That's it. Sweet. Every character; no matter the amount of screen time they get, are awfully likable, the Oiwa family is fun to watch while they had the spotlight, Sayaka, who briefly appears as an adventurous and curious girl, is pleasant to see on screen, Anna and Marnie share a lot of sweet and cute moments, each one leaving you with a big smile on your face. The exceptions to this are characters mainly shown shown in flashbacks: the maids and a brief character called Emily. What I like about Ghibli films like this; a general lack of concrete plot timeline (see Kiki, Totoro and Poppy Hill); is just how...character-driven these films are: there's no plot points that taints and 'conveniently' motivates the characters, instead the plot is moved along by character motivation itself; even if some characters may appear for just seconds...they still somehow serve a profound purpose: The most brutal scenes in the entire film is when the elder Hisako tells her story to Anna and Sayaka: we get to see how Hisako, Anna and Marnie are connected through time.
Granted, I would've like to see more of Marnie, Sayaka and Hisako; particularly Hisako; but what I got was satisfying.
Needless to say, the art and animation is flawless, Studio Ghibli just utterly celebrates hand drawn animation...its backgrounds feels like vivid recreations of Monet paintings brought to life, the Marsh House drawn on pencil by Anna and oil painted by Hisako looked stunning on screen.
So...is this a good film to farewell Ghibli in the foreseeable future? Yes. Is it a masterpiece? It succeeds in many ways but fails in some others. Like I said, the side characters have much more to bring to the table, Anna can be a bit whiny and annoying at first, but she grows like any main character should, Marnie feels too...perfect, and her backstory does not seem to fit her character at times...but she's still a likable presence on screen. Overall, a must watch if you want a easy segway to slowly get into Ghibli films. The soundtrack? Now, this is a possible masterpiece...I would rate score with 5* if its theme based rating only, but overall, its a 4.5*. I also recommend you to check out the included image album: particularly the Anna theme suite.
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