The Red Turtle has been on the way for a decade: it’s the acclaimed Studio Ghibli's first Japanese-French-Belgian co-production, made under the supervision of Ghibli giants Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies director) and Toshio Suzuki (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle producer).
The narrative of The Red Turtle (or lack of a conventional one, since the film is entirely without dialogue), follows a man marooned on a desert island. The actual red turtle and a scuttling chorus of crabs follow him as well. His attempts to build a raft and escape are thwarted by the titular aquatic amniote, seemingly hellbent on extracting retribution against the shipwrecked castaway. Dudok de Wit combines simple storytelling with traditional, painted pastoral landscapes – creating a path away from the typically over-dense storytelling and hyper-realistic cartoons that characterises so many modern animated movies.
'I wanted to combine explicit storytelling with interpretation,' de Wit said at a Q&A following the film’s Londons screening. This approach to cinematography as translation occurs throughout Studio Ghibli films, notably, studio director Miyazaki’s films adapt Western source material to Eastern screens.
Relying on inherent human fears, universal myths and gorgeous, hand-drawn animation, the scenes are played out directly, but force audiences to participate in its interpretation thanks to a lack of dialogue and an abundance of magical realism. Exploring how we make connections with nature and each other, the film's island is teeming with life: insects, trees, fish – all of which are given just as much detailed attention as the characters.
The film flits from scene to scene with storybook ease: the hopelessly wide stretch of the sea switches to claustrophobic jungle vines without a word. Recordings were made of the various noises that occur throughout the film (seagulls, rising tides, assorted screams), but the film is entirely without dialogue. Rather than turning into an endless spans of time that can characterise silent films, this engrossing feature captures the meditative magic that comes from spending long periods of time in nature. The characters are animated so that their eyes are dots.
Studio Ghibli, based in a suburb of Tokyo, is known for producing artistically engaging animated films in which heroic protagonists (typically female) embark on quests adapted from Western narratives. They journey through pastel-coloured toxic catastrophes, do battle with spirits and make friends. For more than 30 years, Ghibli has created high art features that find box office success, but which transcend mere story-telling.
The Red Turtle continues in this tradition, and will surely become canonical Ghibli. Newcomers and fans of the anime studio alike will find themselves captivated by this beautifully depicted, silent world.
Suitable for all ages
|What||The Red Turtle review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
26 May 17 – 23 Jun 17, Times vary
|Website||Click here for more details|