Surrounded by the immense and furious ocean, a shipwrecked mariner battles all alone for his life with the relentless towering waves. Right on the brink of his demise, the man set adrift by the raging tempest washes ashore on a small and deserted tropical island of sandy beaches, timid animal inhabitants and a slender but graceful swaying bamboo forest. Alone, famished, yet, determined to break free from his Eden-like prison, after foraging for food and fresh water and encouraged by the dense forest, the stranded sailor builds a raft and sets off to the wide sea, however, an indistinguishable adversary prevents him from escaping. Each day, the exhausted man never giving up hope will attempt to make a new, more improved raft, but the sea is vast with wonderful and mysterious creatures and the island's only red turtle won't let the weary survivor escape that easily. Is this the heartless enemy?Written by
"No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main . . . ." John Donne
Think you need all those material goods? Try being a castaway as in Dutchman Michael Dudok de Wit's animation,The Red Turtle. Like Tom Hanks in Cast Away, the nameless protagonist has little to work with, this time bamboo forest rather than a volley ball. And no dialogue, not even talking to himself.
As is clear from the figurative content, everyman may be an island yet needs happiness from the simplest possessions such as his ingenuity for survival and Nature. The unrealistic answer, despite the real challenges he has faced, is a companion given of the red turtle he upends. A little magic realism never hurts when you're alone.
The outline of the story has been told many times from Robinson Crusoe to Mosquito Coast with the newer Swiss Army Man and all marooned heroes in between. Yet this House of Ghibli animation, with the blessing of legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki, minimizes the details into simple survival, for which a branch or two and friendly Nature such as clowning crabs and tricky turtles make a difference, if you can be beloved by them.
The magical introduction of a mate into the equation certifies that community and love are essential for survival. Just let Mother Nature do her work.
She does, most often to the benefit of the survivors, but an occasional out of control set piece is here to say only so much of this sweetness can be tolerated. In one piece, nature takes a considerable toll on the island and its few inhabitants. Like Adam and Eve, the hero and his magical mate suffer under Nature's seemingly capricious temper.
Although the allegorical implications of harmony with nature are obvious in the film's minimal activities, it's the simplicity of the line and color design and the lack of dialogue that broadcast the need to strip us of our material load: simplify, simplify. Although we can't avoid the catastrophes Nature or human nature will bring to us, we will be happiest to be at one with Nature and ourselves.
The Red Turtle deserves its Oscar nomination and the experience of those with whom we share its beauty, young and old.
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