The Red Turtle (Michaël Dudok de Wit, 2016): Belgium|France|Japan
Reviewed by Vincenzo Muia at the 2016 AFI Film Festival.
Utilizing the European ligne claire (clear line) drawing style (evidenced by the castaways ink-dot eyes and fine-nibbled nose), The Red Turtle (La tortue rouge) marks the first collaboration by Japanese studio Ghibli with a director outside of Japan. After being recruited by famed Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki for his contribution to the 2000 Oscar-winning short Father and Daughter (Michaël Dudok de Wit, 2000), director de Wit paints a visually stunning fantasy tale about man’s relationship with nature through vivid colors and without a trace of dialogue.
The tale begins with our protagonist treading water in a storm-whipped sea who is suddenly swept onto the beach of a deserted island. Upon his awakening, he explores the island and realizes he is alone and the necessity of resiliency and resourcesfulness are needed for him to escape the uninhabited island. Wandering through a lush, vividly green bamboo forest, he discovers fallen stalks and begins his raft assembly. After finally casting his creation into the sea, an abrupt impact by a yet unknown sea creature causes his raft to explode, and our protagonist is forced back to the sandy beach of the island. The resilient castaway once again builds his raft, this time larger, and once again the sea creature abruptly rams his raft, destroying it once again, forcing him back to the island. After a third attempt with an even larger bamboo raft, the sea creature is revealed to be a gentle, large red turtle, who once again smashes the raft and sends the castaway back to the island. Upon waking from the sandy beach, the large red turtle lay washed up on the beach on its back struggling to overturn itself. The castaway, angered by the creature’s participation in hindering his escape, unleashes his vengeance upon struggling turtle. It is in this pivotal moment the film begins to unveil it’s lesson of man’s role in nature through a dream-like sequence of his life stages. The lack of dialogue in the film allows the viewer to communicate with the language of nature, creating richly profound gestures amongst the cast of the film. The richly textured colors are contrasted by deep hues of nighttime skies.
The Red Turtle, an 80 minute animation, relies on its use of color and sound, both diegetic and non-diegetic (orchestrated by Laurent Perez del Mar), to return the viewer back to the rhythm of nature. The film strikes a resounding similarity to Castaway (Robert Zemekis, 2000) in animated form. This uniquely award-winning film premiered in the Un Certain Regard (original and different) section at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and has continued to receive positive reception on the film festival circuit from Toronto to Los Angeles. If you wish to see a film whose desired effect is for the viewer to further appreciate the cycle of life, allow The Red Turtle to reveal the image to you.