The Red Turtle (2016) {spoiler alert}

What attracted me to the movie was the association with Studio Ghibli. However, the movie is directed by a Dutch animator and director, Michaël Dudok de Wit, and there is even lesser feel of Studio Ghibli in this one than the recent few movies. I guess I just miss Hayao Miyazaki.

The animation revoked the feel of The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013) and now that I think about it, Princess Kaguya was a more entertaining movie than The Red Turtle. 

Don’t get me wrong. The Red Turtle is a wonderful animated movie. 2016 has been a reasonably good year for animated movies but nothing exceptional. The animation is fluid and a visual treat. I love the way the nights are depicted on scales of grey. The bareness and minimalism of the scenes, the lack of spoken dialogues, the repetition of sceneries and the gentle soundtrack with nature sounds works wonderfully well together to tell this story of a castaway.

The movie has a good pace. The animation is attractive and the small details emphasized throughout the movie hold my attention in between the events which are the turning points of the movie. 

However, because of the lack of intricacies and a subdued, not-complex plot, there is too much time for me to think. I’m analyzing and over analzying the scenes while watching and waiting for the events to unfold. I am empathic to the castaway, his frustrations, struggles, guilt and happiness. However, I’m also thinking about how it is all a metaphor for life in general. 

The only moment when I actually react hard is when the main character recalls how he hit the turtle with a stick while looking at the turtle-lady who offers him the oyster (?) flesh. That was a very good scene.

When the realism crosses over to the fantasy, it loses a little of the charm for me. The story is still engaging and the small points are still worked out well but it just melts down some fine storytelling which built up because it initially seemed like a movie sans fantasy.

While fantasy would be a general expectation where Studio Ghibli is concerned, the general mood of my favourite Ghibli movies is that something fantastic happens in seemingly normal settings and events. Here, we have something fantastic like a man marooned on a deserted island in the middle of nowhere and then it just… devolves into something more fantastic.

Again, a part of me argues that if the main character has effectively hallucinated his life after killing the red turtle, then it would still be the same. But it is just a funny, far fetched thought. I don’t believe it.

I’ll definitely recommend this movie to anyone who asks but personally, while I enjoyed watching this movie, I was expecting something more. But Hayao Miyazaki isn’t making movies so I think it is high time I gave up on expecting like Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, My Neighbour Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke, Whisper of the Heart, etc happening again.

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5 Comments

    1. The film was lovely and yes, a lot of food for thought. They managed to put in a lot of things in very simple scenes and events. My impression of it is biased because of the tag of *the* Studio Ghibli. I had expected something more mesmerizing that would sweep me off my feet like the way a lot of the Studio’s movies do. However, it is a collaboration between multiple companies so this is to be expected.

      I am not a consistent writer. I publish things as they strike my fancy – just for fun.

      Thank you for your response. The movie is definitely good at leaving an impression and I would love to hear more of your opinions on it.

      Jjon.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I definitely know what you mean. I feel as though the film did well to find a balance between the expectations of a Ghibli film and as a film on its own merit. Funnily enough, I haven’t found much analysis of the film online!

        I was also wondering if you might like to see some of your writing on Moviepilot. If so, i’d love to help with that. Let me know 🙂

        Samuel.harries@moviepilot.com

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      2. I read a few raving reviews online but I mostly do not agree that is very exceptional. I think Studio Ghibli should have worked on this production under a different name because this feels like a bleaker, lesser sort of Ghibli movie while on its own, it would stand much better. As such, it feels like a watered down version reminiscent of “Only Yesterday” and “My Neighbours, The Yamadas” – even “Ponyo” sometimes. The visuals are absolutely fantastic but it doesn’t invoke a feel of something exceptional.

        Thanks a lot for your suggestion about Movie Pilot. I’ll keep that in mind and definitely contact you if I need help with it. Thanks again!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Some may find the movie a bit obtuse in its innate lack of drama (though a devastating natural disaster occurs over midway through the film), while others may find poetic beauty in its guileless lack of complication. Whatever your perspective, there’s one thing for sure: The Red Turtle is unlike anything else you’ve seen in a while.

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