This year on the Oscar nominees list, on the “Best Animated Feature Film” category we find a Studio Ghibli production, directed by no other than Hiromasa Yonebayashi. This is his second movie after the wonderful „The Secret World of Arrietty” (2010), the story of the so-called „borrowers” that live in a secret world under the house, taking from people living there simple and insignificant things, helping them to survive. The producer Yoshiaki Nishimura is on his second nomination, after „The Tale of the Princess Kaguya”.
Based on Joan G. Robinson’s 1967 novel the story comes to life thanks to Yonebayashi’s amazing vision. From the beginning I realized that it was missing that Ghibli magic, but it succeeded to keep me interested by creating a very mysterious story, solved at the very end. Until then, at each turn of events you just wonder: „Is it a friendship story?” , „Is it a romance story?” and, even if it’s clear that Marnie belongs to another world, you can doubt for a moment about what’s real: “Does Marnie or Anna is the imagined one?”, “Which one is the real world?”. So, it keeps you in suspense until the end, becoming eager to find out the truth behind all this. Actually, the story is about friendship, love and rediscovery, narrated with sadness in a ghostly atmosphere.
The animated film starts really corny with a little girl suffering from asthma, Anna, sent by her foster mother to some relatives living by the sea, as the doctor suggested, thinking that it will be good for her health. There she becomes fascinated by the apparently abandoned Marsh mansion and the haunted lighthouse, entering a very secret world each evening. So she takes part in some unbelievable adventures, helping her, in the end, to adapt within society, discover her past and finding her inner-self that she was missing: „There is an inside and outside. And I am outside.”
The classic 2D animation, created in the Ghibli tradition, is full of charm, refined and so full of details. Also, there is some kind of melancholy enveloping the film. Could this be caused by the fact that this could be the very last Ghibli movie, ending the animated films production, as they stated? It would be such a pity to lose one of the most important hand-drawn animation studios. This could mark the end of an era in the world of animation.