CYNICISM AT THE CINEMA: ‘The Red Turtle’ tells of time’s beauty, destruction

(Photo used by permission of Creative Commons

Movie aficionado sophomore Chardonnay Needler reviews films biweekly in “Cynicism at the Cinema.”

A dialogue-less film definitely does not have to be silent.

Sometimes, it can say more than its louder, line-filled counterparts.

That’s what the newest Studio Ghibli film “The Red Turtle” does.

In typical Studio Ghibli fashion, the animation is flawless, a perfect balance between accurate representations of nature and cartoon characters.

The nighttime skies dotted with stars (which play an important part in the film’s theme) are particularly breathtaking.

Visual beauty aside, the story itself is reflective and presents time in a different light: not as an enemy but as a part of life, something that creates and destroys, something that abuses and is abused by everyone.

It starts with a man – whose name, country of origin and past story we never learn – marooned on an island after a shipwreck.

Every attempt of his to build a raft and leave the island is stopped by a creature that eventually reveals itself to be the red turtle.

After the man accepts his fate and stays on the island, the rest of the film records his life as well as the lives of his love interest (who shows up by way of an island miracle) and their son.

The audience sees these characters built from the ground up, perceiving the man’s changing attitude as he watches the young boy grow up among the island creatures.

It is in both this development and the island scenery that the main themes are presented, and these themes remain in viewers’ minds long after they leave the theater.

(Photo used by permission of Creative Commons)
The family in “The Red Turtle” walks along the beach on the island.

The film is beautiful, but it is equally haunting.

We watch how the man is transformed into a lover of nature and an acceptor of fate, knowing that he, just like all the small crabs, mussels and fish on the island, is there for a set amount of time.

It’s a 21st-century folktale, except it isn’t ethnic- or country-specific. Instead, it presents universally human themes: loneliness, grief, self-discovery, love and life.

It is also such a universal movie that there are no real lines, nothing that separates this family from everyone in the world. The only words that are said are “Hey!” or “Ah!”

There is no clear reason for why the characters never speak. Frankly, their not speaking seemed a little forced.

The same story could have been told with some words, maybe an “I love you” or “Goodbye” thrown in somewhere along the way.

Maybe director Michaêl Dudok de Wit’s vision was to make it universal, and thus didn’t want to put linguistic barriers up.

Interestingly, there is no writing in the movie either.

Yet no matter what stage of the moon cycle (or life) you’re in, this film will move you to laugh, to gasp, to come close to tears and to feel what it like to be human.

By Chardonnay Needler

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