Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Review: "The Red Turtle"
An Oscar nominee for Best Animated Feature, “The Red Turtle” is deceptively simplistic.
The story is utterly wordless, the plot beyond spare. The hand-drawn animation uses only the barest of lines to render its characters and creatures. It’s more the way they move and hold themselves that lends them hidden depths.
Inured as we are to dazzling CG animation, at first this style may even appear prehistoric. In a fashion, it is -- in the way that fables seem stuck out of time.
A joint Japanese/Dutch production directed by Michael Dudok de Wit, from a screenplay he wrote with Pascale Ferran, “The Red Turtle” is more like a painting in motion than a traditional animated film.
It opens in black and white, an open, roiling sea where a man has become separated from his boat. He is marooned on an island; he finds ways to survive his isolation, but after a time he builds a raft to escape from it. Then a sudden primal bump smashes his crude craft of vine-lashed bamboo. He builds another. Same thing happens. He is mystified by what’s attacking him.
Eventually, it’s revealed to be a massive crimson sea turtle. It seems determined not to let him leave the island, and their conflict escalates. It’s not so much that the man hates the turtle, but resents it trapping him. Later, a woman comes into his life unexpectedly, and their lives are joined. Things go on from there.
There’s a hazy, dream-like quality to the animation, especially the backgrounds of ocean and sky. Despite running a scant 80 minutes, the film is contemplative and may strike some as slow.
The filmmakers and animators of “The Red Turtle” ask us to surrender ourselves to their imagery and natural sounds, occasionally accompanied by mournful music (by Laurent Perez del Mar), rather than being pushed and pulled by editing and actions.
Just relax, and breathe it in.