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Arts in Review

The Red Turtle shows us what animated movies could do if they just tried hard enough.

Michaël Dudok de Wit’s The Red Turtle is perhaps the most inventive animated movie I’ve seen all year. That might not be selling it too much given that the year’s just getting under way and I haven’t really seen any other animated movies, but I guarantee that The Red Turtle will at the very least be unlike most other major animated releases.

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Michaël Dudok de Wit’s The Red Turtle is perhaps the most inventive animated movie I’ve seen all year. That might not be selling it too much given that the year’s just getting under way and I haven’t really seen any other animated movies, but I guarantee that The Red Turtle will at the very least be unlike most other major animated releases.

To begin with, it has no dialogue. At an hour and a half, the film manages to tell its story without a single word being spoken by any of its characters.

A man is shipwrecked on an island, and we see him struggle on the beach, attempting to build a series of equally ineffective rafts for himself until, at last, he manages to tie enough logs together and make a sail out of foliage.

It’s a pretty impressive raft.

It lasts all of five minutes. Some nameless animal destroys it. We find out later it’s a strikingly red-coloured sea turtle.

Throughout the film, we try to imagine the character’s inner dialogue. And it manages to, through gestures and actions, convey emotion and thought with a precision that’s at the very least surprising, and at the most awe-inspiring.

If anything, The Red Turtle challenges the tradition of animated films being exclusively for children in a manner that’s less simple-minded than movies like Sausage Party have in the past. And more importantly, the film challenges the way in which we take in stories delivered through a visual medium, particularly because the film itself is more of a myth in the sense that it incorporates folklore traditions in presenting a story that deals with a situation that has been overplayed to death (a shipwrecked man has to rescue himself or survive) and transforms it into one of the most emotionally-charged animated movies I have ever seen.

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