The Red Turtle (La Tortue Rouge)

The Red Turtle (La Tortue Rouge) 2016

It’s always exciting to see animation helmed by folks from beyond Japan and the US, since those are the two production locations I’ve been most exposed to.

Having said that, Studio Ghibli is a co-producer but the look and feel of this feature film definitely reveals more of Dutch animator Michaël Dudok de Wit’s hand, and an overall European aesthetic. For me, with my limited knowledge of animation in the wider world, I saw hints of Herge in the character designs but that’s not really important.

I’m trying to be brief for a change (hahaha), so instead, let me leap to a bit of plot – this is a fantasy, but chiefly a drama about a man stranded on an island and who encounters a curiously belligerent (it seems) red turtle. (Thematically, it’s more nuanced than that however).

Switching to the tone of the story I think you can’t go wrong by saying that it can be described as a cross between Castaway and a fairy tale. Yet The Red Turtle is ultimately more uplifting than the Tom Hanks film. Still, it’s fairly downbeat – but I remained enthralled by the visuals once a central mystery was resolved perhaps halfway through.

Focusing on the visuals, aside from the ‘line and dot’ look of a lot of the film, it’s an explosion of light and colour without being gaudy; it remains so natural, becoming almost hyper-natural in some ways. From the sand, water and forests, it’s like a work of art. There’s also a lot of dramatic composition too, with wide and sometimes extreme establishing shots to really drive home the idea that humanity is just one part of the world. Yet it’s hardly a preachy film, considering one feature is a lack of dialogue.

Very much worth seeing if you’re a fan of the art of animation.

4 Stars

3 thoughts on “The Red Turtle (La Tortue Rouge)

  1. This looks like a fascinating movie. It does get wistful knowing that it’s Isao Tahahata’s last work as an animator (may he rest in peace). I also see a bit of a Robot Communications kind of vibe with the aesthetics which is also a nice touch.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it deserved the accolades it received, yeah. And I know what you mean re: those connections. I also found a quote that I was going to put in the review that was also somehow bittersweet:

      “[On Takatata] ‘He was very discreet,’ says Dudok de Wit… ‘We talked about the symbolism and what I really wanted to say, and things like that. But he always finished with ‘It’s your film, you decide.’ ”

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sure thing. Thanks for noticing those connections, too. Come to think of it, Robot Communications’ works are way more European-looking than Japanese. If I showed most of their stuff to some random anime fan, they would not be able to tell the animation was made in Japan unless I told them.

        Wow, what a powerful quote and it really is bittersweet in hindsight.

        Liked by 1 person

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