Directed by Dutch animator Michaël Dudok de Wit, The Red Turtle begins on an unnamed man who is left stranded on a desert island after a ferocious storm. The man goes about exploring the island - finding fruit, drinkable water and a surplus of bamboo to build a raft with. After three failed escape attempts, the man discovers that a giant red turtle is the culprit behind his trio of wrecked rafts. When the turtle crawls inland, the man vengefully hits the sea creature and pushes it onto its back - but later he becomes wracked with guilt at his violent actions. Following a surreal transformation, a mysterious woman arrives on the island, and the man begins to make peace with his predicament as the pair form a romantic bond.
The Red Turtle’s gentle pacing and minimalist narrative afford us time to get to know the central male protagonist despite being both nameless and wordless. It also delves into the features of the beautifully rendered landscapes of this desert island. Dudok de Wit’s elegant hand-drawn animation endows the film with an extraordinarily gorgeous depth and texture, masterfully developing our sympathies with the marooned man and placing the wonders of nature firmly to the forefront.
While the first half of the narrative does become slightly repetitive, the film’s second half delivers an affecting scene of natural destruction, and its fantastical twist evolves The Red Turtle from a desert island movie to a meditative, melancholy fable on the cycle of life and our relationship with nature. Deceptively deep in both its sumptuous visual imagery and in its subtly moving themes, The Red Turtle is a transcendent little gem.
The release boasts just one extra, but it’s as absorbing and calming as the film itself. In a 17-minute feature, Dudok de Wit gives an intriguing and detailed account of the process involved in sketching the movie’s characters and landscapes.
THE RED TURTLE / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: MICHAËL DUDOK DE WIT / SCREENPLAY: MICHAËL DUDOK DE WIT, PASCALE FERRAN / STARRING: EMMANUEL GARIJO, TOM HUDSON / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW