Scene 23 – When Marine Was There

And just like a Phoenix…I am back! Risen from the flames, covered in ashes and dirt… and also wishing Dumbledore my lover wasn’t as forceful.

Going to try make these posts regular, even though I am swamped…It’s something I really wanna do. Anyhow, let’s get straight into it….

Since I have been on break, I thought it fun for the first movie to do (upon my return to blogging) to be the last one out of Studio Ghibli before their short-lived hiatus with ‘When Marine was There’. Having said that, ‘Marine’ would and should have sibling syndrome competing with ‘My Neighbor Totoro’, ‘Spirited Away’ and my personal favourite, ‘Princess Mononoke’. For me, it didn’t quite live up to the expectation….

‘When Marine was There’ follows a 12-year old girl, Anna. She doesn’t have any friends and her foster parents are overwhelmed with her, so they sent her to the countryside to visit some relatives. There she meets and befriends the mysterious girl Marnie. And that in a nutshell, is the plot. Stylistically, ‘Marnie’ is similar to ‘The Wind Rises’. However, with the stories roots firmly footed in English tale by Joan G. Robinson, the animators couldn’t let their imagination go wild and create amazing fantasy worlds like in ‘Spirited Away’. Personally, this is the major problem with the film. While the plot itself is great and has some interesting themes,  the friendship between the two girls is extremely superficial and barely explored. They meet and from one second to the other are best friends for life. To make it even worse, the dialogue is cringe-worthy at times, especially when cliché’d phrases like ‘I will love you forever’ and ‘ Always remember me’ are used. This wouldn’t be a problem, but since the mutual relationship is one major theme and not really developed, this dialogue seems heavy-handed and out-of-place. So not to spoil entire film…lets head to the Bad and the Good…

The Bad: Director Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s love affair with Western stories continues, this time however he hasn’t got the Godfather; Miyazaki, to steer him on the right path and everything seems forced and a little to cliché’d.

The Good: Absolutely Gorgeous Animation, as expected from Studio Ghibli. Enthralling story (even though laboured in parts). One for fans of Studio Ghibli, but wouldn’t recommend to newbies’s wanting to get lost in The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness.

But don’t take my word for it,this is just my Outake.

Watch it and let me know what you think….

Scene 22 – Song of the Sea

*Cue smoke machine….spot light centre stage*  “Hi Guys!”, the author say in his best prepubescent voice!….
I think that’s the kind of entrance I’d like this blog to make each week…and yes I have said each week, because I’m back to offer you my weekly brain burps on film that I have watched. I am sorry that I left you alone, and cold in the dark…again…but work got in the way. Saying that I am procrastinating from more work, by writing this actual blog…but…I truly loved this film so it most definitely worth the time spent writing and in fact reading.

Let me paint you a scene as you wind through a landscape populated with fairies, giants turned to, selkies and painfully tormented humans, Song of the Sea enthrals by merging the lines between the common and fantastical. Following on from his Oscar nominated début with Secret of Kells, director Tomm Moore’s second film with his team at Cartoon Saloon, is a far more personal piece.

Song of the Sea is part folk tale, part family drama, as Moore returns to the rich history of Celtic folklore, finding it lurking within the cracks of a broken family. Creating a powerful, yet refreshingly simple twist. Ben (voiced by David Rawle) lives with widowed father Conor (Brendan Gleeson) and his mute little sister Saoirse in a lighthouse. Ben prefers the simple companionship of this sheepdog Cu to Saoirse, for whom in a heartbreakingly complicated ball of emotion, he blames for the loss of their mother. So he clings to the vague, magical memories of her songs and stories as comfort from a cold, soulless father. To make matters worse, their sharp, stubborn Grandma (Fionnula Flanagan) arrives, coming up with the conclusion that only way to fix the family: take the children to Dublin, leaving Conor, and Ben’s beloved Cu behind. Just on cue, the night before their departure, Saoirse stumbles across hidden corners of their lighthouse, finding old family secrets that lie awaiting to be discovered.

Upon their arrival in Dublin, Ben is immediately determined to return, reluctantly taking Saoirse with him. Their journey submerses them into a fantastical, rich of history, myths and legends. *spoliers* There is something so enchanting about the way that the trio of stone fairies are discovered by the siblings in an overgrown roundabout in the middle of the town. The dialogue between the real world and the old world of legend doesn’t just lend itself to wondrous imagery, but also captures the ideas that hold real weight and are the driving forces within the film.

It is evident that Moore and everyone at the studio are proud for it’s Irish origins, honouring it’s folklore and culture, all the while technically taking the influence from 50’s American animation, Japanese anime and ancient Celtic art. Song of the Sea combines all these qualities, interweaving them in a compelling and original fashion. The studio uses every opportunity to take full advantage of the animated medium, delightful telling the story through shapes and symbols. The father, Conor, always hunched, sometimes over a Guinness in a dingy pub, has his sorrow echoed by a giant rock that lies offshore, curled over in an identical manner as if it bears the battering waves. Details like this are typical of the history found in every corner of each frame.

Such resonance weaves throughout the film, and demonstrates a devotion to theme shared with the best of children literature. This is evident as Ben and Satires travel deeper into the past, the world grows ever more fantastical, but not at the expense of the human story. Ben moves with the steely and passionate inconsistencies of primary-school boy, and Saoirse with the quiet, observant and playful demeanour of a real toddler coming to school age. Just like life, everyone is presented as flawed, complex creatures. As the background art enchants with wondrous colour and texture, the character animation is commendably reserved. It is a fantastic technique that the animators, who breathe life into the simple designs, using behaviour that hints each character being the mere tip of a human iceberg.

The reaches its ‘bell’ when the Owl Witch (also voiced by Fionnula Flanagan), bear uncanny echoes to Ben and Saoirse’s own lives. Her Obsession with “eliminating suffering” is an achingly honest mirror of Grandma, who strives, to the point of further damage, to heal. There is a robustness to the deceptive simplicity of Song of the Sea that is reminiscent to that of the great Hayao Miyazaki,with core plots similar to My Neighbour Totoro or Ponyo. Saying this, Moore and his studio contemporaries have made a truly unique world with a distinguished voice. But just like Miyazaki, Moore posits himself that hand-drawn animation in itself has a timeless quality that is impervious to age.