NZ International Film Festival review: The Red Turtle

Scene from The Red Turtle
Scene from The Red Turtle

The Red Turtle is animated film stripped back to its bare essence: a simple story, beautifully told, and laden with emotion despite nary a word of dialogue.

When a man is washed onto a deserted island during a storm, his immediate thought is to build a bamboo raft and escape.

Something out at sea has other ideas, however, and repeatedly brings the man's journey to a crashing halt - much to his outrage.

The resulting fantastical tale tugs at the heartstrings. It's about freedom and entrapment; hope and despair; love and loss.

It's amazing how invested you can become in characters who say so little, but The Red Turtle effortlessly ensures it.

It's the attention to tiny, subtle details that bring them to life - from the smallest movement of an eyebrow to the scuttling of a comical gang of crabs.

The animations are like pages of a hand-illustrated storybook brought to life. The clean lines and colours achieve enormous depth on screen, delivering an added sense of drama.

Frame composition is frequently used to emphasise scale, portraying the man as tiny speck against his surroundings - whether he be perched atop of a cliff or way under the ocean.

Add to this a layered soundscape and score that ebbs and flows like the tide, and you have a restrained, powerful and elegant masterpiece.

The Red Turtle is Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli's first co-production - Oscar-winning Dutch animator Michael Dudok de Wit the chosen collaborator.

There's much to love for Ghibli fans, from the uncomplicated aesthetic to the elements of magic and mysticism, and a thematic score. But this film feels different, too - it's more restrained and contemplative, and less concerned with action.

Without the whizz-bangery common to animated films these days you do have to keep reminding yourself to appreciate the space you're being given to enjoy the artistry, but if you do so it's a richly rewarding watch.

Four stars.

     The Red Turtle:: Director:Michael Dudok de Wit :: Rating:TBC:: Running Time:80 minutes

Reviewed by Kim Choe / Newshub.

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