The Red Turtle comes with the pressure of having the name Studio Ghibli attached to its production, even if it’s only as a co-producer (Wild Bunch, being the other half). Director, Michaël Dudok de Wit, had the daunting task of working on a film that would validate the faith put on him to lead this motion picture.
Luckily I had the opportunity to watch a screening of The Red Turtle at the glamorous May Fair Hotel in London, a comfortable setting for a very charming movie.
The most striking aspect of The Red Turtle is that the entire film has virtually no dialogue, barring some shouting or crying. The story is beautifully told simply via the animation and the musical score. So if that doesn’t sound appealing, than this film is not for you! The animation is also very European, so do not expect the usual Studio Ghibli presentation, even though their name is tagged on. This doesn’t mean that the animation is any less stunning. Considering the lack of any speech, it is critical that the visual aspect of the movie is on point, something that excels here. The island produces some gorgeous visuals, such as the bamboo groves frequently visited here! De Wit does a fantastic job in storytelling, in such a minimalistic method.
So the story revolves around a nameless man, who is left stranded on a island following a shipwreck. After discovering that he is the solitary human on this tropical island, he survives on fresh fruit and water from the lake. But the constant loneliness drives our man to plan an escape, using the endless supply of bamboo at his disposal. His efforts are in vain, as his escapes are always wrecked by a wild red turtle. Without disclosing the entire plot, the movie follows the interaction between the man, and the turtle, and their interactions.
What we have a is wonderfully simplistic movie, which manages to go into some surprising meaningful topics, the fact it is all done in visuals makes the movie even more enjoyable. The Oscar nomination it received for Best Animation was most certainly deserved. The movie even manages to fit in some humour, using the crabs living on the island, which form a bond with the man, to great comic use!
Some may not enjoy the movie though, as the story line does drift off into a more fairy-tale like territory, after a more realistic opening third act. Also, the films locations do get repeated, a lot! It’s clear to see their production value was not huge, as we frequently go back to the bamboo grove, lake and beach a lot. This does not diminish the story, though it may fatigue some viewers in that regards.
If you’re a fan of prior Ghibli movies, and the themes they follow, than the The Red Turtle is another stellar addition to their portfolio. If you simply enjoy animation, and storytelling, The Red Turtle also delivers on that front. Although it’s on a very limited release, if you do happen to stumble across it somewhere, do take the time out to see it!