Michaël Dudok de Wit's THE RED TURTLE
Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
This feature-length animated fable is a triumph of art and storytelling:
- Shipwrecked man washes on up a small tropical island.
- He tries to escape via a series of hand built bamboo rafts.
- Each time his escape is thwarted by an unseen underwater force.
A giant sea turtle is responsible for the failed escape attempts. The man retaliates by flipping the turtle over when, one day, he finds it stranded on the beach.
Instead of dying, the turtle transforms into a beautiful young woman. The man and woman fall in love, they raise a son. In the years that follow various trials, tribulations, and age befall them and the island where they reside.
I can't think of any other films with which to compare this. It's mostly wordless with a beautiful soundtrack consisting of music and natural sounds. At times the artwork is simply breathtaking with water, birds, rain, fish, and sky providing a masterful view of the natural world in which the humans find themselves playing their sometimes painful, sometimes joyous parts.
But, be prepared for a languid journey. The filmmakers take their time showing how their humans interact with the natural world. Sometimes we see what the characters see; day or night, it's invariably beautiful. As in real life there is no shortage of danger and occasional terror amidst the beauty. Small children viewing this film, as a result, may be alternately bored or even scared.
Through it all we can't help but wonder, "What's going to happen next?" In my own case, I was usually not able to guess.
Check it out. It's a beautiful and unusual film with great emotional resonance.
If THE RED TURTLE is representative of what happens when Studio Ghibli partners with other production houses, the future of post-Miyazaki filmmaking is bright!
Review copyright © 2017 by Dennis D. McDonald. Viewed at the Traverse City Film Festival, July 2017.