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The Red Turtle - DVD Review

The Red Turtle

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

STUDIO Ghibli have delivered another visual masterpiece with The Red Turtle, a bittersweet celebration of the ages of man and the natural world.

A co-production between the Japanese studio and Dutch-British animator Michael Dudok de Wit, this is a wordless animated movie that entrances and beguiles, while providing plenty of food for thought.

The story begins as a nameless man is washed onto a tiny, secluded island in the middle of nowhere. Determined to escape, he builds several rafts out of bamboo but continually finds his passage thwarted by a giant Red Turtle, which smashes his vessel each time it reaches a certain point.

After finally confronting the Turtle on a beach, the man apparently fatally wounds it, only to attempt to revive it when guilt overcomes him. Thereafter, something strange happens. The shell cracks and a woman replaces the Turtle. And so begins an unlikely relationship.

Dudok de Wit’s film works on a spiritual and existential level that’s comparable to the likes of Terrence Malick in his prime or the opening minutes of Pixar’s Up. But it’s also very much its own film.

Hence, while beautiful to watch, often amusing and highly engaging on an emotional level, it won’t be to every taste. Those seeking convention, clear answers or dialogue may find themselves disappointed. And this applies to mainstream-craving adults as well as children.

What The Red Turtle does do, so well, is make you think: about the nature of existence, about love and life, and man’s relationship to nature.

As a result, it’s a film that continually surprises in the way that it employs tension (a tsunami sequence, a cliff top fall into a watery cave), in its use of black humour (the fate of certain cute creatures) and in just how easily it makes you care. There are several genuinely touching moments, while the ending is tear-jerkingly poignant (and oddly so).

Dudok de Wit, who first came to attention with 2000 Oscar-winning short Father And Daughter, takes you on a mystical journey that resonates throughout and lingers in the mind for some time afterwards.

It’s another victory for what can be achieved in animation and in film in general, if you’re brave enough to venture outside of the mainstream box.

Certificate: PG
Running time: 82mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: September 25, 2017