Film Review: The Red Turtle

The Red Turtle, Studio Ghibli’s latest film, is a delightfully ponderous affair. Director Michael Dudok de Wit delivers a beautifully animated picture.

A man is shipwrecked on a deserted island. Whilst figuring out how to escape, he encounters a red turtle. This encounter changes the course of his life…

Based on his story, The Red Turtle is Michael Dudok de Wit’s directorial feature debut. It is not difficult to see why the film received an Academy Award nomination. The combination of beautiful animation and storytelling without words is something to behold. The film offers a contemplative tone, as the simple but significant story unfolds.

With no discernible dialogue, The Red Turtle tells its story through image. Diegetic sound does enhance this, as does the soundtrack. Nevertheless, the storytelling is performed through its visuals. This makes for an interesting and atypical picture.

The Red Turtle tells the story of a man shipwrecked on a remote island. But in reality, the film tells the story of life. This is conveyed both through the man’s story, and through the creatures that inhabit the island. The film gives viewers a sense of perspective. Its reflective tone gives viewers a chance to contemplate. The narrative is one that speaks about the human condition. However, the film does this in the most accessible of ways; a picture that can be understood by viewers of all ages and languages.

Dudok de Wit’s film progresses in a steady manner, and does not hurry viewers along. Thanks to the tone, it never feels like it is dragging either. The passing of time is elegantly depicted through tides and sunsets. This aspect works very well. The animation mixes simple enough figures with rich and appealing landscapes. Colour is used astutely; the black and white depiction of night is a great device. There are some wonderful shots, such as the sea at night.

With alluring animation and a theme that speaks universally, The Red Turtle is a very watchable film.

One comment

  • The unfussy, semi-realistic ligne claire (clear line) drawing style is a perfect match for the story, and color is used both expressively and symbolically, the most obvious example being the deep red of the turtle which contrasts with the largely desaturated palette of most of the film.

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