Directed by Michael Dudok De Wit
For their first foreign co-production, the esteemed Studio Ghibli teams up with Oscar winner Michael Dudok De Wit, to bring us a wordless fable of extraordinary beauty.
A man shipwrecked on a tropical island has his escape constantly thwarted by a giant red turtle. Unable to understand why this is the case, the man is forced into conflict with his erstwhile captor.
This may seem a strange tale, and to be fair it progresses from here fairly quickly. Unfortunately to share more of the plot would shatter some of the wonder and mystery of this story. Suffice to say there is much more happening, and it really just needs to be experienced. Without a word spoken, this launches the audience into something wonderful.
The Red Turtle shares a lot thematically with Studio Ghibli’s other works. That sense of wonder is certainly there, sweeping audiences along into this tale. So to are the reverence and magic of nature, that sense of spirit of a place that is so prevalent in much of Miyazaki’s work. There is also that mark of quality, in the detailed and fluid animation. It bears all the hallmarks you would expect from the studio.
Yet it is also it a very different product. Whereas the animation is top notch, it is also a vast departure from what has gone before. The Red Turtle represents Ghibli’s first coproduction. Hence the character design is not what we would usually expect from the studio, instead owing more to European art design (think Tintin in look). The colour pallet is also muted by comparison, but this gives the film a storybook quality, like the inked pages of an artist’s sketch book. The result is different, but equally satisfying and undoubtedly beautiful.
This is one of those cases where less is certainly more. De Wit cut down his original concept into something that simpler, shorter and that could be communicated without words. The result is elegant in execution, while still remaining profoundly moving. The visuals, aided by a gorgeous score, propel audiences along on this mystical voyage. Yet despite its magical elements, and out of the way setting, this is a story about life – rolling with the punches, accepting where you are, and taking the opportunity to experience the joy in your surroundings.
A spellbinding feast for the senses.