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
Seen at the 2016 London Film Festival, 'The Red Turtle' is an animation that opens with a shot of a man. We do not know who he is, or how he came to be where he is: all that matters is he is in danger of drowning, being as he is adrift in storm-toss'd ocean waters. For the viewers, the man's life begins at that moment, for once he washes up on a deserted island it becomes apparent he will not be leaving it any time soon. Not for the want of trying, mind you: he builds more than one raft as he attempts to escape. But each raft is destroyed by a large red turtle. Eventually the infuriated man takes his revenge against the turtle, which is when things get really weird...
If this were live-action, I would want to know the man's origin (or at least his name!) and how the turtle does what it unexpectedly does after the man attacks it. Perhaps I am more easily satisfied when watching animation, though, because those things did not matter here: instead I lost myself in the story, which clips along at a fair old pace, but director/co-writer Michael Dudok de Wit ensures it never seems rushed: dramatic happenings such as a tsunami and the man's attack on the turtle aside, this is a very peaceful film, with the antics of some sand crabs providing comedy relief.
The animation is a pleasing mix of styles: the human and animal figures could have been drawn by Hergé, whereas the backgrounds - assisted, I assume, by CGI - are near photo-realistic. But there are some obvious errors, all to do with the sea: when viewed from above the surface it seems to have the consistency of paint (ie: not transparent). Underwater scenes generally show a background of blank grey, rather than the animators providing a seascape of sand, gardens, fish etc - this seems a wasted opportunity. And whereas in real life wet clothing clings to its wearer, frequently in this film clothing that has just been completely submerged in water continues to blow around the wearer as if it is bone dry!
But those quibbles aside, I enjoyed this and can certainly imagine myself watching it again: next time, hopefully, without the sizeable gentleman sitting across the aisle from me who had apparently purchased all the popcorn in London - his munching sounds really detracted from this dialogue-free film.
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