Studio Ghibli’s first international co-production is a ravishing castaway fable that combines beauty, mystery, drama and heartbreak – with not a word spoken. It’s a triumph for animator Michael Dudok de Wit.
“‘If one day Studio Ghibli decides to produce an animator from outside the studio, it will be him’, was Miyazaki’s pronouncement after watching Dudok de Wit’s Oscar-winning animated short Father and Daughter… Sixteen years after Father and Daughter, Studio Ghibli and Dudok de Wit’s collaboration has come into being.
It begins in the middle of a storm. Grey waves and raindrops engulf the screen. In the corner, a tiny head surfaces and then sinks. The nameless man is washed up on a beach with bits of his broken boat. A crab crawls up his leg. When he goes to explore, the view pulls right back so all we see is a remote island while his cries ring out. His only company is a cast of crabs (such an apt collective noun!). Several times he tries to escape with a makeshift bamboo raft, but each time a mysterious force in the water breaks up his boat. Eventually he discovers his secretive aggressor: the titular red turtle.
I’ll leave it there with the plot, because you don’t really want to know much more about a mythical fantasy like this one before you see it…
Pictures are the film’s currency and they are, without exaggeration, sublime… The depth and texture on show here – conjured from a surge of pencil marks and watercolour washes – is remarkable. The film is a must for the big screen.” — Isabel Stevens, Sight & Sound