With such great titles as Spirited Away, The Wind Rises and Ponyo, the Studio Ghibli stable has a pretty high success rate, to the point that with every film many people ask “how will they top this?”. But one thing the animation studio are not afraid of is taking risks.
So it is no surprise that director Michael Dudok de Wit’s The Red Turtle is an ambitious East-meets-West endeavour. The silent tale centres around a man who becomes stranded on a remote island with no company apart from some rather inquisitive crabs. Beyond the occasional “hey”, there is no dialogue – which some people may find challenging – but there is beauty in this simplicity, and in the almost-hand-sketched images which flicker onto the screen.
With attempts to free himself from his isolation, the man builds a raft to set out to see, only for his vessel to be destroyed by the illusive red turtle. After tormenting the man, and even gloating, it appears.
The man’s frustrations get the better of him, and once on land, he makes a very brutal attack on this gracious creature, leaving it flipped on its shell. Remorseful, our antihero attempts to do anything he can to revive this giant sea creature when – in Ponyo style – the turtle turns into a beautiful woman.
What transpires is a tales of love, tension, family and death all allowing for the viewers own interpretation. Even though the storyline itself is not really clear, you can see the Ghibli touch to The Red Turtle, and as with all of the legendary Japanese studio’s films, there is a secondary moral to the story lying beneath the surface.
Again, this is totally open to interpretation, but for me personally it left me with a feeling of the need to appreciate our surroundings and what our earth has to offer in terms of environment.
There is a lot more that could be said about this film, but the overriding feeling for me is that The Red Turtle takes you on a journey you maybe didn’t quite expect.
Visually it is breathtaking and it is clear to see why this film was up for an Oscar, but this film is so much more than just an animation and a silent piece. A lot of animated films can take you into an unimaginable world, but The Red Turtle has an element of ‘this could happen to me’, and I think this is why it drags you so deeply into its tale.
The Red Turtle is available on Blu-Ray and DVD now.
Dir: Michael Dudok de Wit
Scr: Michael Dudok de Wit
Starring: Emmanuel Garijo, Tom Hudson, Baptiste Goy, Axel Devillers and Barbara Beretta
Prd: Pascal Caucheteux, Vincent Maraval, Grégoire Sorlat and Toshio Suzuki
Music: Laurent Perez Del Mar
Runtime: 80 minutes