How does When Marnie Was there compare to its Studio Ghibli movie?
The loneliness can sweep through your spirit like an ocean wave. There are, first, crests. The first is the crests. Grief builds up inside your chest until it reaches its maximum capacity. It then rises to overwhelming levels, filling your bones with helplessness. There are also troughs. Your emotions sink when you are sad. The loneliness’ absence makes you sink back into a numb acceptance.
Loneliness can also trigger defence mechanisms, especially when someone tries to reach out to you while they walk through the sand to find you at the shore. Another person approaches you, but you retreat into the solitude of the ocean, fearful.
When Marnie Was, Joan G. Robinson wrote there in 1967. It is a magical, realistic novel about family, tragedy, and loneliness. It is a story wrapped in fantasy and fabulism. The story centres on a young orphan girl’s search for connection. When Marnie Was there approached the topic of children with maturity. It isn’t easy to make the book fit into a specific genre. It would be ideal for both adults and younger readers to pick up When Marnie Was There from any bookstore section. This 1960s novel has stood the test of time. The story of an emotionally distant child who falls in love with a mysterious girl who lives in a mansion near the sea will charm readers of all ages.
The plot is Ghibli-Esque, a psychological drama about a young girl protagonist. It’s also touched with surrealist magic. So it shouldn’t surprise that the same studio gave this novel a movie adaptation. Hiromasa Yonebayashi, Ghibli director, adapted the source material to a theatrical movie in 2014. Interestingly, the Japanese title, Omoide no Mani, subtly hints at the themes more than the English title, literally translating to “Marnie of [My] Memories.” Although the changes When Marnie Was There (2014) made from Robinson’s text were minimal, the creators did a beautiful job creating an accessible, gorgeously-illustrated, soundtrack-driven film in the audio-visual medium.
Both versions of When Marnie Was There were initially captivating because of their setting. Robinson’s novel takes place in Norfolk, England, a seaside county. Robinson describes Anna, the protagonist, travelling to Norfolk after her asthma attack leaves her disabled. In Yonebayashi’s film, Anna’s foster mom sends her to a similar Japanese town for the summer, hoping that fresh air will improve her lungs. This is the main difference between the stories. Both stories are rich in detail and both have a vivid setting. As Anna travels along the coast, the salty air is almost tangible to the senses.
When Marnie Was There is a significant, sensual character, the setting is used. After suffering the loss of her mother and grandmother, Anna finds comfort in the setting of the pearly water. Robinson’s prose is dreamy and floats through sensory descriptions, where seagulls sing overhead and high clouds merge into the pearly-grey sky. Studio Ghibli’s When Marnie Was There (2014) is a visual treat that delights the senses. The animation flows like liquid water. The film is enriched by the cultural significance of Japanese clothing and storefronts.
While you read the Ghibli adaptation, the music and lyrics will transport you to Norfolk. The movie is brighter and more saturated with calm, greyer colours, while the novel is darker and more muted. The same tone sensibilities are maintained.
Anna felt lonely and alone throughout her entire life. Robinson is a constant window into Anna’s mind, probing Anna’s anxious thoughts throughout the novel. Anna longs to make connections with others. Anna’s social anxiety, trauma over loss and displacement, and depression prevent her from building relationships with others. Anna’s internalised turmoil is shown in the novel to the point that Anna feels almost too relatable. It is exhausting to live with loneliness in many forms and emotions. Robinson explains how a little girl might deal with these feelings.
Although readers might find Anna’s inner dialogue repetitive, Studio Ghibli’s film communicates Anna’s loneliness more gently. Anna’s thoughts are revealed in the novel and When Marnie Was Here. Anna describes her loneliness as a result of being an outsider. Anna, who describes herself as being outside the magic circle of acceptance’ for other children, is seen looking inwardly at the others as she draws the images. When she is particularly contemplative about Marnie, a unique girl she meets in a tall mansion, Anna returns to art.
Yonebayashi’s adaptation of Anna offers her a hobby not found in the novel. The potential to visually signify or foreshadow narrative codes makes Anna’s portrayal as an artist logical. Marnie is also sketched, which makes the girl seem more real on the page. Anna is given a hobby to help her understand the world.
The film also changed the identity of a secondary character, the mystery surrounding Marnie’s sporadic disappearances and the substitution of one child for Anna’s entire family. These differences are not to be discussed as they would reveal the surprise endings. The changes are minor in comparison to the powerful conclusion. Robinson’s novel and film depict suspense and freedom and loneliness and the reality-blurring rendezvous of Anna and Marnie with thoughtful narrative structures. Through the film’s devotion to aestheticism, the spirit of the text is preserved in nuanced moodiness.
Anna’s journey to find refuge from her isolation through When Marnie Was Here tenderly reflects the meaningful interactions and self-discoveries she makes. You can weather the storms of life, and relationships will allow you to run hand-in-hand toward the swelling waves.