sat 21/09/2019

The Red Turtle review - Studio Ghibli loses its magic touch | reviews, news & interviews

The Red Turtle review - Studio Ghibli loses its magic touch

The Red Turtle review - Studio Ghibli loses its magic touch

Japanese-European co-production feels slow and ponderous

Robinson Crusoe meets his match

A man is caught up in a storm at sea; giant waves like Hokusai crests throw him onto a deserted tropical island. Over the next 80 minutes, his struggle to survive occupies the screen. Curious crabs provide a little company, but not enough to stop him trying to make a raft only to have his attempts at escape thwarted. While he is eventually blessed with some human companionship, there is no dialogue throughout the film, just music and sound effects.The Red Turtle features many beautiful sequences set in bamboo forests and thrilling underwater scenes, but it's a slow watch and at a couple of points, quite upsetting for a tender-hearted child. It is tricky to see this becoming a family favourite. This is animation for the art house, not the theme park.

Over the three decades it has been making films, Studio Ghibli has created its own fantastic universe, populated by magical creatures and quirky humans. Although its films are usually set in Japan (Totoro, Spirited Away, Grave of the Fireflies), sometimes its heroes have strayed into unspecified mittel-European towns (Kiki's Home Delivery, Howl's Moving Castle) and purely fantastical landscapes (Tales from Earthsea).

But this is the first time the studio has co-produced a film with European backers and it has a very different feel. The Red Turtle is directed by Michaël Dudok de Wit, a Dutch animator who made the short Father and Daughter, which won an Oscar in 2001.

That short was the tale of a young woman growing away from her father, replete with dream sequences, and there are echoes of it here in The Red Turtle with its narrative of family bonds stretching out over time. Perhaps if viewers come to the film not craving the humour, pathos and quirky inventiveness of classic Studio Ghibli, they won't be disappointed. As it is, while admiring the atmospheric animation I was left a little underwhelmed by the ponderous narrative.


Overleaf: watch the official trailer for The Red Turtle

This is animation for the art house, not the theme park


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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