Beautiful, artistic and dreadfully dull…
by Martin Hafer
The Red Turtle is the sort of film that you’ll either love or you’ll hate and it’s the sort of picture many artsy folks will love and the general public will find baffling and dull. And, although I am a film critic, I found myself in the latter category and really had to struggle to stay awake as I watched this animated film.
This film by the Dutch-British animator Michaël Dudok de Wit has a very unusual pedigree. It’s a joint French-Belgian and Japanese production and is the first non-Japanese film funded by Studio Ghibli! It’s also unusual in that there is no dialog in the film whatsoever….just a couple screams. And, with no dialog you are essentially watching a silent film with lovely music.
When the film begins, a guy becomes lost at sea and washes up on a lonely island. He works hard to try to escape his prison-like setting but several times a massive turtle inexplicably derails his plans. Eventually, he attacks the beast and nearly kills it…and soon repents of this and tries to keep the creature alive. Now here is where the film gets really, really weird (and the implications are disturbing if you think about it)….the turtle magically becomes a woman and the pair fall in love. Soon they have a son and the son seems to have a strong affinity for hanging out with sea turtles. Pretty weird? You betcha! As to what’s next, see for yourself. But be forewarned…the film is slow…glacially slow. And, it’s certainly not for all tastes. However, on the plus side it is original, the animation very nice and the music quite evocative. But, the music also lulled me to sleep and the story just left me baffled. Do not take small children to this one…they won’t be able to sit still for it and will demand to go home! Instead, it’s more a film for very select audiences…folks who can look past the strangeness and slowness of the film. As for me, I really couldn’t look past this and found the film rather devoid of fun and was a bit of a chore to watch.