Friday, September 22, 2017

The Red Turtle: A Magical Journey for the Soul

Movie Review: The Red Turtle (2016)
Version: Starz on Demand

One of the more curious animated films recently is The Red Turtle, directed and co-scripted with Pascale Ferran by Michael Dudok de Wit. There is virtually no dialogue, only the occasional "Hey! Hey!" It is all action, but the story line is simple enough, every nuance plain enough, no need for dialogue.

Simply, a man struggles for his life on a rolling sea in the middle of a storm, eventually ending up on a deserted beach on a small lonely island. Besides the abundant beach and a prominent rocky outcrop that overlooks everything, there is a deep bamboo forest and a few coconut trees, along with a fresh water pool -- all the things he needs to sustain himself. Despite living on a paradise, the man is lonely and bored all on his own, and unable to do anything about it in his seclusion, he tries building a raft of fallen bamboo to escape, but something unseen from below batters his raft and he must return to his solo habitat. He tries it again, and the same thing happens. And again. And again. Finally, the man catches the culprit, a large red turtle, which he follows back to the beach and bodily turns over, leaving it to die on the dry beach in revenge. Eventually the man feels remorse and tries to revive the red turtle, but it has already died. Falling asleep, he later awakens to find the turtle's shell has split and a woman arises from the red turtle's shell. This changes the man's life, giving him a companion and spouse, with which he father's a son and with whom he can grow old on this prison island. The story goes on to chronicle the wonderful life they live together, the ups and the downs, even the moment the son reaches lonely adulthood and says goodbye, swimming away.

In many ways, this film is magical, saying so much with the expressions on the characters' faces and their gestures, eliciting so much emotion and communicating so much of the story through color and music. You never doubt for a moment what is going on in the story. And living through the lives of the characters so intimately by watching everything unfold, never needing to intrude with dialogue, it is a far more powerful telling of the story. It's almost real-life like.

No one leaves watching The Red Turtle untouched by the story. It's a magical journey for the soul.

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