La Tortue Rouge
(The Red Turtle)
Written & directed by: Michael Dudok de Wit
Aaahhh Studio Ghibli, the makers of fantastical, colourful, maniacal, impossible cinema! I was a late comer to Ghibli and when I decided to start watching their films I started buying them in order of release date but so far I’ve only seen Castle in The Sky, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, When Marnie Was There and Only Yesterday (the last four were at the cinema, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see them on the big screen!). I tried to watch The Wind Rises but it just didn’t grab me immediately so I abandoned it, which is something I rarely do with films but I was forcing myself too much to watch it. But I know I enjoy their style of filmmaking. Spirited Away made me come out of the cinema feeling like I’d taken LSD; flashes of light popping everywhere as I walked out into the fresh air! It was trippy but it was incredible that a film could do that! Since watching these films I’ve kept my eye out in the news for any Ghibli action and when they announced this film I INSTANTLY bought my cinema ticket for it!
And so should YOU!
PLOT: A man is stranded on a desert island but with no time to waste he begins his plan to escape whilst a giant red turtle keeps stopping him from leaving!
It sounds like an odd/dull film and it walks a very thin line of odd/good. It’s a very complex plot but then at the same time it’s so simple. Your emotions are being tested in every scene!
Firstly, there’s no dialogue in this movie other than the odd shout and ‘hey’, and it starts off as a really cool element for a film and pretty realistic (as you’re not likely to talk to anyone when stranded on a desert island). But halfway through and onwards it feels like there should be some dialogue as whole sentences are said through the form of physical actions and you think,’ well something could be said here to speed things on a bit and for clarity for both audience and characters in the movie’.
It reminded me of The Snowman with the ‘no speech’ rule and the MAGNIFICENT animation which looked like pieces of art in certain shots. Particularly at night. You could tell when computers were used for the animation; the wind and the ocean ripples. But it REALLY worked and made it feel like you were watching a hybrid of live action, animation and paintings. Some of the shots at night were UNBELIEVABLY calm to just sit and stare at.
The fact that the night shots are black and white and day is colour is a really interesting and visually stunning concept. It’s so simple that I can’t believe I haven’t seen it done before. I’m sure there have been films that have used this technique but this was my first time seeing it and it really added texture to what was being shown in the scenes.
One thing that REALLY bothered me throughout the WHOLE film though was the protagonist’s face. His features really didn’t look like any thought went into them. I thought a film with no real dialogue would surely put a ton of effort into making the face look like it’s doing all the talking for the character! The eyes were just little black coloured in circles and the nose was almost a right angle. I feel like this HAS to have been deliberate as everything else in the movie is so perfectly crafted that they thought,’ let’s keep the faces simple so you have no idea what the characters are feeling inside’. Because you actually don’t know what they’re feeling most of the time. They rarely seem bothered by much. As soon as the film starts and our protagonist finds he’s been washed up on an island, he’s proactive! Straight to building a craft to get off the island. He’s exploring the island looking for food/people/a way off. He doesn’t seem to take time to think about what’s happened or have a little breakdown. He’s straight to it!
One of the GREAT things about this film which I would have in most films is there’s no indication of what year this is supposed to be set in. You can’t tell by language, clothes or music. It’s all just timeless, which I think is what makes a film great and hopefully what this film will become once more people see it and realise what this film is.
Halfway through the film the plot takes a slightly odd twist and continues from there and you start thinking,’ well this isn’t very realistic’ after we’ve been watching a man doing what you expect most people to do; finding a way off the island immediately! But it took me until the end to realise, nothing NEEDS to make sense. Things can just BE. Especially in a film like this where it’s not about things being realistic. It’s the importance of enjoying what you have.
It’s ironic to say but when you’re watching the film you wish you were there on the desert island too! The everyday distractions of life are gone. You just look after what you have and who you have and you appreciate those things for what they are and what they mean to you. Because you would truly cherish them. And although this man wants off the island, you’re sitting there thinking,’ it’s not such a bad life he’s got’.
My Rating – 8/10 | IMDB – 7.6/10 | Rotten Tomatoes – 95%