Cannes 2016: Michael Dudok de Wit's 'The Red Turtle' is Magnificent
by Alex Billington
May 18, 2016
What a magnificent one-of-a-kind animated film. The Red Turtle is animated film from director Michael Dudok de Wit, produced by the legendary Studio Ghibli with Isao Takahata involved as an artistic consultant, even though the animation was finished in France. The film is about a man who washes up on a desert island after a destructive storm, and every time he attempts to build a bamboo raft and escape, a red turtle appears out of nowhere and demolishes it. He finally gives up and accepts his fate and explores the island. The film is very simple and tells an inspiring story without any dialogue, only a few shouts of "hey" and other noises, but that's it. It's so simple yet so beautiful; I honestly was moved to tears by a few scenes.
Studio Ghibli and director Michaël Dudok de Wit and everyone involved with The Red Turtle should be so proud of this magnificent film and all that they've accomplished putting it together. It's the kind of film I want to watch again right away and will revisit from time-to-time when I need some emotional inspiration. Aside from stunning animation, many of the scenes in the film are complimented by an incredible score from composer Laurent Perez Del Mar. This score brings so much to the experience as the film relies so much on the visuals and the emotions of dialogue-free storytelling. I always love seeing stories told without anyone actually speaking, and this has all kinds of cute quirks like funny crabs that appear out of the sand.
The Red Turtle is actually an allegory for living a meaningful life and allowing our emotions to play a part in that life. It shows us how to connect, how to care for and how to love each other in simplest of ways. No need for unnecessary complexity or overly complicated situations to deal with, instead this film is capable of being poignant by telling a story of man on an island. There are great scenes where lessons can be learned, where we're taught to figure a way out on our own, where we're taught that life is often a struggle but results in remarkable beauty in the end. I was hoping the film would be delightful (see the trailer), and I'm happy to report it is, but it's also uplifting and affecting in the best of ways. Seek out this gem as soon as possible.
As simple as the film is, it's almost too simple, as it didn't actually have the full emotional impact that it could've had. That said, it's hard to fault the film for this because if they would've tried to add too much more in any direction (story or animation or dialogue) it would've started to muddle the message. And this film is so special because it is so universal and because it can connect with any and everyone out there, no matter what language they speak or where they're from. That's the truly amazing quality of this film - the way it can inspire and connect with everyone all over this world, and remind us how important it is to treat all life with respect, to care deeply for others, and to live a full life no matter where you may be stuck. Bravo.
Alex's Cannes 2016 Rating: 9 out of 10
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