When Marnie Was There: who is Marnie?

excerpt of a convo i had

It's a movie I think about a lot, albeit mostly because I like to try and rationalise the story/timeslip logic and all that, but for sure Anna is such wonderful Ghibli character. When people say they don't like the movie, I'm just comfortable that it's most likely they didn't get it. Among people who really knows what Anna represents though, it's like a secret gem of a movie.

Well you're welcome I guess. I like the fact that not everything is explained, we don't have to justify everything to create a good story, and it gives fans an opportunity to be creative and imagine the explanation they want. What's your theory about what's actually happening in the movie ?

God dammit, I SO deep dived into this movie that I ended up reading the 1967 Joan G Robinson novel it was adapted from. I don't have the space here to explain this all in detail, but to outline: I believe that Marnie is a spiritual projection onto Anna's sense of reality. Perhaps that's not a controversial claim in itself, but it means I don't accept theories that Marnie is a reconstruction of Anna's memories of the stories she was told, or that the diary is a horcrux (which sometimes further involves the theory that Anna was a stand-in for Kazuhiko).

But yeah as you say, ultimately these things are unexplained and it's simply just fun to fill in the details.

For the record, the ontological status of Marnie in the book is the same as in the film. So theories about the movie more or less apply to the book too. Perhaps that makes When Marnie Was There Ghibli's most faithful book adaption, possibly?

[is marnie a tulpa?]

Now that would be interesting [Marnie as a spiritual projection]. My main theory when I was at the middle of the movie was that Marnie was like a sort of imaginary friend that Anna created to make herself feel better, to reassure her, and to escape from reality, and somehow this imaginary friend became real, thanks to hallucinations. But then I saw the rest of the movie and my theory got destroyed lol. Or maybe her imaginary friend she could saw thanks to hallucinations/dreams took the appearance and the memories of her grandma's ghost that was floating around the manor, because magic, so the imaginary friend started to act like Marnie, and started to re-live Marnie's most traumatizing moments (the silo, the maid) and best moments (the parties, the dance), because I guess these are the moments a ghost remember the most. And during the beautiful silo scene, the imaginary friend didn't know anymore if she was Marnie, or if she was the imaginary friend of Anna, which would explain Marnie calling Anna Kazuhiko and then noticing it's Anna. Like two minds sharing the same body, so the body act like a person during one time, and act like another person during another time. Ha, I love making theories.
Anyway, I'm not really into reading but I'll give a try to this book, it seems like it's more complete that the movie, and that's perfect because I'm not done thinking about this movie, and I need to see a different approach of this story.

Most fascinating! If I were to label your theory, I think the right word would be tulpamancy. Anna's conception of Marnie is a tulpa. I really like that, I think that's generally compatible with my theory.

I really enjoyed the book, it's a short and easy read. It is complete in a few aspects, yeah. Though as I've said, the reality of Marnie is no more explained in the book than the movie - which is actually satisfying in some ways, it indicates that the movie was a good adaptation and you can easily reapply theories. Only difference in the movie is that Anna's dream state is blended into her encounters with Marnie, but I'm not sure about the significance of that.

I didn't know tulpamancy was a thing, well I didn't know it had this name. When you say Anna's dream state is blended into her encounters with Marnie, does it means that it's specify that everytime Anna sees Marnie, she's dreaming ?

[is anna dreaming... when even is she dreaming?]

A bit more complicated than that. In the movie, you might have noticed than in the final full encounter they have (where it ends in her disappearing in the silo) the scene begins with her falling asleep, then her in the stormy surreal dream world with Anna sketching in the marsh similar to when she's talking to Marine through the window, then it goes to more lucid mushroom picking, then it becomes very lucid with Sayaka interrupting Anna as she heads to the silo.

In this scene, it seems her dream state is blended into her waking state. Can't quite tell where the dream ends, or begins, or if it even is a dream.

What's going on in this scene? I don't know quite frankly, have no explanation. It's a mystery that's unique to the movie.

Okay, actually, I just spent several minutes thinking about this and suddenly realised that maybe it isn't a dream at all in the first place and the animators just decided the skip the scene where she heads to the marsh. Maybe I've overcomplicated it?

Separate thing I want to mention: I deeply related to Anna when she sulked about not being a good enough friend for Marnie. It's something that's not explicitly explained in the movie, but I can sense it... how she stares at Marnie when Marnie is spending time with Kazuhiko, her sort of heartbreak she experiences when she's left at the silo... etc. Really hurt me when I was watching it at the time.

[anna's gaze]

I think that's pretty plausible [the animators simply skipping scenes]. We'll never know the truth tho.
And [...] yes, I could deeply feel the pain in Anna's gaze when she saw Marnie spending time with Kazuhiko. This stare was saying Oh, I wish I was as perfect as this guy so Marnie could actually appreciate spending time with me. Well at least that's what I understood from this stare. I really like how many things are showed only by the animation, like I remember noticing that at the beginning of the movie, Anna was always avoiding looking at people's eyes (something I do too), and at the end, Anna isn't scared anymore of that. This shows how she became way more confident than before.
I realize I already want to re-watch this movie again but I don't want to get hurt again

I was in a real bad place last year - not to give a life story, but I was so overly attached to a friend that it hurt every time I saw them talk about life stuff elsewhere and connect with others. This movie really helped me recognise and tackle it.

[On things shown only through animation] I was really observant of her facial expressions too from the beginning. I was particularly taken aback by how she wasn't smiling at all. The first time she properly smiles is when she dances with Marnie, it made that scene all the more magical to me.

Gee we're so many replies deep haha. Affirms my first point that this is a movie one can talk about forever. The other Ghibli movies are great, but only Marnie has this much guidance and analysis I think.

to be continued ====>

i think about this movie a lot

I watched this movie on . My first remarks were:

Very, very sweet. It feels like the most gentle Ghibli I've seen in a while... perhaps of any.
It took me a really long time to get round to it because, to be honest, it looked like it was the least interesting one on the shelf.
Being one I've never heard of, seemed a bit obscure and possibly cheesy... my prejudice has been shattered.

Was quick to delve into how much I felt Anna's hurt

It was a little bit confusing, Anna's sulking, for the bulk of the period where I couldn't understand why.
There was something... perhaps Shakespearean about her sulking? I drew this comparison in my head to Hamlet and how mysterious he all is about feeling betrayed.
I've had a troubled relationship with a friend early this year, and ever since I started watching Ghibli films about April time, whenever I see neglect or threat of trust between two people I always read into it and connect to it.
This movie really hit that aspect for me... with how Anna is hesitant about Marnie at times (not really liking the parties, etc) but still having sweet and magical moments

Later, Marnie reemerged in my mind.

There's only two Ghibli films I've seen more than once, My Neighbor Totoro and Ponyo... well until just recently. Earlier I rewatched When Marnie Was There.
When Marnie Was There has been on my mind a lot. It is amazing to me because it's an accurate depiction of what it means to sulk. I've already said a little while ago that it's a quiet movie, and in being not dialogue heavy it avoids merely grasping at the tangible details of loneliness; it's told through how Anna gazes and reacts to people, and more.

Up until then, I wasn't sure how to rank Marnie among all the other Ghiblis. It seemed that the socially acceptable thing to do was to rank it as middling, 10th or 11th place, with respect to how (not) well known it is anyways.

Changed my mind. On , decided Marnie is my second favourite Ghibli.

theories apply both to book and movie

Mostly. It is a testament to how good of an adaptation the movie was.

a recollection of anna's memories

So Anna's infant memories of Marnie's stories are being replayed. This theory goes multiple ways, one is that they are being replayed from the perspective of Kazuhikio/Edward.

Marnie actually saw Anna the whole time as her boyfriend, because all Anna went through was actually from Kazuhiko's shoes. When Anna was little, she was told stories about all of this from Marnie, but she forgot, while subconsciously she didn't. That's why all felt somewhat familiar when she visited the place, and she got to see everything in person from Kazuhiko's experience. That's the reason for this lesbian feel between the two, because Anna was acting out the role of Marnie's boyfriend. However, the reason Anna started loving Marnie this way, might've been for a different reason.

Popular theory for some reason... except Marnie danced with Kazuhiko/Edward in the presence of Anna, and Marnie mention him to Anna. Not convinced.

I've heard it better justified as Anna being in the place of the flower girl. But again, Marnie refers to Anna by her name. Or perhaps Anna is also even replacing mentions of other peoples names in her memories? Really not convinced.

a spiritual projection

Again, goes multiple ways. Anna connects to Marnie's spirit, present in the Marsh House and at high tide. Her spirit is projected into Anna's mind and she interacts with her. Marnie really is there - not quite physically, but her soul is present and is being projected over Anna's qualia.

would you cry if i died?

Priscilla Ahn's score Fine On The Outside is good. It's also part of an album called Just Know That I Love You but I cannot hear it. It's only available under DRM, or a physical CD.

So I just sit in my room,
After hours with the moon,
And think of who knows my name...
Would you cry if I died?
Would you remember my face?