THE RED TURTLE (LA TORTUE ROUGE) (France/Belgium/Japan 2015) ****
Directed by Michael Dudok de Wit
A hit at this year's Cannes, this full animated feature THE RED TURTLE is the first international co-production from renowned Japanese animation giant Studio Ghibli. It enlists the talents of Oscar-winning Dutch animator Michaël Dudok De Wit for a wondrous story about the unlikely friendship between a castaway on a deserted island and an enormous sea turtle. Done without dialogue, it is a mythical tale that could vey be the birth of man like the story of Adam and Eve. The power of the animation is in its apparent simplicity of plot, enhanced by stunning animation and music.
Shipwrecked on a deserted island, a lone man struggles to find his place in this new world. The basics for survival are abundant yet frustratingly out of reach, and danger lurks in the smallest of crevices; every isolated grotto is also a potential grave. The man cleverly uses the forest's resources to support his raft-making efforts, but his every escape attempt is thwarted by an enormous sea turtle (the RED RURTLE of the film title) who seems intent on having him stay. Enraged, he attacks the turtle, intent on killing it. What happens next is the beginning of a new chapter in the man's life, one that will instruct him in the ways of companionship and lead him to understand that nature must take its course. The turtle turns into a red-haired woman. They bear a son who undergoes a same demise of the father, falling into a crevice of water.
A tsunami also hits the island. Death also rears its ugly head but the three inhabitants of the island learn or is forced to cope with it.
THE RED TURTLE is a beautifully conceived tale. Director Michael Dudok de Wit was given Carte Blanche to do whatever he wanted with his film, and THE RED TURTLE shows the stupendous result of independent animation. The sea, the fire, grasslands and bamboo are all shown with their enormity compared to the image of man. The film might be confusing to some - with the turtle turning into a female and vice versa but the trick is to treat the story as a fable of man and his environment. Don’t bother trying to figure if there is some metaphor on life hidden in the tale either. Best is just t enjoy the detailed animation and Dudok’s artistry without questioning.
THE RED TURTLE emerges an emotional tale illustrating the powers and wonders of nature. Man is present but in this film, has to learn to live with the elements. A beautiful film that will cater more to art house audiences than children.
THE RED TURTLE has already garnered lots of awards. The film premiered at Cannes, where it was nominated for the “Camera d’Or”, and won the “Un Certain Regard” Special Prize. It has been nominated for Best Animated Feature by the Critics’ Choice Awards, received runner up for the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Best Animated Film, and has been nominated for several awards by the International Animated Film Association Annie Awards including Best Animated Feature – Independent. It recently was named runner up for Best Animated Film by the Toronto Film Critics Association as well as the Los Angeles Film Critics Circle. In February the film is up for five Annie Awards.