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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Red Turtle

The Red Turtle, one of the nominees for Best Animated Feature at last year's Oscars, has no dialogue. Well, the word "hey" is used several times, but that's it. It is nonetheless a beautiful mediation on love and nature.

I was hooked by the opening shots of a sea in turmoil, the waves sloshing, the rain pouring down. A single man is bobbing in the waves. He will eventually come ashore on a deserted island. He finds some food, but builds a raft to attempt to leave. The first two times he tries this, an unseen force smashes his raft. The third time he sees that it is a giant red turtle, about as big as he is. The turtle looks him in the eye, and swims off.

Later, the man finds the turtle on shore. He clubs it and flips it over on its back. Victorious, he starts to build another raft, but feels guilty, and realizes the turtle is dead. But then it's carapace cracks, and well, I don't want to spoil it, because I had no idea what was coming.

The film was directed and written by Michael Dudok de Wit, and though it seems like it's based on some ancient folk tale, apparently it is original. What is engaging about this film is the absolute beauty of the animation. Some scenes are so striking, such as a moonlit beach, or the interior of the jungle. It's not necessarily realistic, but it feels authentic. When I was giving art a try I always thought rain was impossible to paint or draw, but Dudok de Wit captures it perfectly. There is also a big scene involving a tsunami that's a whiz-bang moment.

At 120 minutes, The Red Turtle is a nice length, though it does sag a bit in the middle. But for anyone who values animation, this is a must see.

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