The Red Turtle starts in a raging sea awash in a wild storm. A lone survivor frantically struggles against the waves and ends up washed ashore on a remote island. Seemingly alone on an island that is rich in natural resource he sets about trying to escape. With each attempt a mystery creature destroys his raft. Until one final time, revealing itself – a huge Red Turtle. Overwhelmed with frustration the man attacks the turtle, almost killing it but creating a bond that will change everything.
This is the first production from Studio Ghibli that is a collaboration. The widely acclaimed Japanese animation studio that made Only Yesterday, has always done things their own way. Hayao Miyazaki is one of their biggest contributors, creating incredible films like Spirited Away, Howls Moving Castle and Ponyo. Lots of these films feature a number of loud vocal characters. But The Red Turtle takes a drastic shift away from this.
The European Animation Studio Wild Bunch chose Michaël Dudok de Wit to pick up the project. He co-wrote and directed the film, which takes us back to the raw essence of cinema. Unlike the loud extreme characters that we are used to from Ghibli, the Red Turtle is almost completely silent. But it is this back to basics tactic that makes the film so complex. The style of animation is a little different, yet carries a great impact with it too. Deep vivid colours are used to stimulate the viewer and it is clear that every sense is being played to make up for the story not being told vocally.
This is a film that is hard to discuss without giving too much away. Without dropping spoilers this film's weaknesses and strengths lie in its simple approach. Michaël Dudok de Wit speaks about what he was trying to achieve with the film which seems to include the reliance on nature. Suggesting the film has a powerful environmental statement.
However way you look at the message, generally this is a great cinematic experience. It manages to pull on some raw emotions and stays in your mind long after the final credits. Yes, due to it being a silent film it can become a little confusing but if you stick with it you will finish with a film quite different from anything you have seen before.