The Red Turtle Screen 17 articles

The Red Turtle

2016

The Red Turtle Poster
  • None of this seems particularly earned or inspired; Dudok de Wit’s film is unsophisticated, without drawing any particular grace or wonder from its willful naïveté. This is all the more disappointing because most of The Red Turtle is truly beautiful to look at. Its textured draftsmanship is quite impressive — large fields of watercolor divided by thick lines of formal stress, with motion frequently activated through the movement of colored film grain.

  • Animation’s plasmatic potential allows for greater freedom of form and representation, unbounded as the illustrated image is to the laws of the material world. Yet there isn’t much done here, aside from a couple of superfluous dream-sequences, that wasn’t done with far more enchantment in Ferran’s ambitious film, aided by its leap into realism. Turtle, then, is impressive as a technical achievement but it feels merely “creative” as an artistic expression.

  • The plot, as thin as it is, provides a suitable enough base for the film’s more existential concerns. But rather than communicate anything substantial, each successive development registers as one more step toward an epiphany that evaporates in tandem with the moony-eyed materialization of the film’s ethno-spiritual utopia. With nary a word, The Red Turtle manages to speak in lofty, unconvincing tones.

  • Commendably/unusually, this is a child-friendly animated film that acknowledges that carnivorous animals exist, and the ending is understatedly heart-tugging. But even at 80 minutes, this feels attenuated, and Laurent Perez Del Mar’s lush score of sentimental cliches isn’t an adequate substitute for dialogue or a strong plot. And the film’s vision of idyllic (i.e., totally isolated, group bed for life) family life gave me the creeps.

  • Tentative engagement may have been inevitable: Dudok de Wit, working from storyboards by Ghibli godhead Isao Takahata, seems ever so content to coast on the most familiar aspects of the animation house's style, and never particularly interested in expanding that legacy.

  • This no-dialogue gimmick has the merit of focusing one’s attention on director Michael Dudok de Wit’s spare animation style, with its rich palette of daytime blues (ocean, sky) giving way to nighttime sepia. There’s not much else on offer, unfortunately, as the film’s skeletal, ostensibly fable-like narrative (scripted by Dudok de Wit with Pascale Ferran) employs its bizarre premise to remarkably banal ends.

  • In the context of cinematically understanding foreign nations, Turtle is a particularly interesting case of animation being used specifically to circumvent cultural barriers. The protagonist, who never speaks and certainly doesn’t name himself, only wears white clothing, and his skin is a middle-ground tan that doesn’t indicate a particular background. It’s debatable whether we’re even on planet Earth.

  • Moment to moment, there doesn't appear to be a plot in a traditional sense, though the cumulative shape of the film reveals a symmetry that might be indebted to the work of Yasujirō Ozu. The animation is reminiscent of the films of producer Studio Ghibli, though even more pared, with the foreground and background of images often demarcated by a boldly direct line of horizon, of the sort that one might learn to draw in an introductory sketching class.

  • While never reaching the heights of previous Studio Ghibli masterworks, the film sublimely contemplates the process of transformation in all things—mind, body, nature and family.

  • While not aping the style of those long-established masters [Miyazaki and Takahata], "The Red Turtle" displays a similar attentiveness to making profound gestures without an iota of overstatement. With hardly more than a handful of shouts and grunts, "The Red Turtle" elicits powerful ideas about the struggle for contentment at every turn. Words are never enough, but "The Red Turtle" finds a way to rise above them.

  • The passage of time, the power and indifference of nature and the tenets of survival are beautifully incorporated into The Red Turtle, a dialogue-free animated fable in which a shipwrecked man makes a life for himself on a remote island. With unpretentious poetry to spare, Dutch illustrator and animator Michael Dudok de Wit winningly expands to feature length the verve that has been evident in his award-winning short films for two decades.

  • A lot of digital animation, with its blocks of colour, can feel flat. But the depth and texture on show here – conjured from a surge of pencil marks and watercolour washes – is remarkable. The film is a must for the big screen. “I am a big softie. I’m a Romantic. I like to cry,” said Michael Dudok de Wit in an interview last year. You have been warned: pack tissues.

  • Without attempting a photorealistic look, Dudok de Wit’s team have captured the look and movement of sunlit seawater, the rhythmic rustling of leaves, and even the differences in color between the exposed and the submerged surfaces of woolsack blocks of granite at the ocean’s edge. It is almost as if they have managed to rotoscope all of nature.

  • Spoken language is direct and concise, but the most necessary messages are never successfully conceived or delivered through words. Silent gestures, decisive actions, and tangible kindness construct the most vivid memories of an individual’s existence. Michaël Dudok de Wit’s heart-rending masterpiece The Red Turtle engages in conversation with the core of the human condition without ever uttering a single sentence.

  • With no dialogue beyond grunts and the occasional shouted ‘Hey!’, events here are orchestrated only by the sounds of the environment, Laurent Perez Del Mar’s score and by the beautiful imagery. It lends de Wit’s film an admirable back-to-basics purity (in formal terms) that matches the reduction of its protagonist to the simplest subsistence. The result is a parable of Darwinian drudgery and survivalist routines that is every so often disrupted by freak occurrences of nature.

  • A spare, graceful film about what a rather louder animated feature once termed ‘the circle of life’, The Red Turtle is a thoughtful anomaly in an era where animations are often breathtaking blizzards of images and pop-culture gags. Tumbling its shipwrecked protagonist out of dark Hokusai waves on to a deserted tropical island, it unfolds his story with beguiling visual and narrative restraint.

  • I haven’t heard a lot about slow animation before, nor am I really a fan of animation. But it’s different with Michaël Dudok de Wit’s The Red Turtle. . . . A lot of movement, comparatively quick cuts – there was something that made me wonder why some people have described this film as being slow or contemplative in the past. Just over an hour later, I agreed with those people and it is, funnily enough, the aspect of movement that, in parts, contributed to my change in thinking.

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