Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Movie with Abe: The Red Turtle

The Red Turtle
Directed by Michael Dudok de Wit
Released January 20, 2017

Movies don’t need words to tell their stories. Since talkies became popular at the end of the 1920s, however, most films have employed the use of dialogue to assist and bring to life their plots, mainly because it tends to engage the audience more. In rare instances, films like “The Artist” return cinema to a long-forgotten age, bringing back the excitement and prominence of silent films. In recent years, however, there have been a number of animated features that include no dialogue and have done well. The latest is a very intriguing collaboration between international distributor Wild Bunch and Japanese production company Studio Ghibli.

“The Red Turtle” begins with a man cast overboard from his canoe in the middle of violent waves who ends up stranded on an island. Numerous attempts to build a raft fail when some unknown animal comes up beneath it as he begins to make headway and destroys it. After a few tries, he finally identifies the animal as a giant red turtle, and when he finds the turtle washed up on shore, he angrily hits it and turns it upside down. After regretting his decision and realizing that the turtle has died, the man is astounded to discover that the turtle has in fact turned into a human woman, giving him someone to share his lonely life on the island with and end his incessant attempts to escape the island.

The story is what drives this film as it must because there are no spoken words. Summarized, the film sounds powerful, and while there are moments at which it achieves that, it’s also very tiresome since there are few points of engagement to truly entice the viewer into active viewing. Once the man finds the turtle on the beach, the film’s pace picks up considerably, but by that point it has gone through nearly half of its short eighty-minute runtime, which feels endless when presented without dialogue.

There is, still, a certain beauty to be found in this film, and it’s an impressive wonder that it can be told with no conversation and instead just with eye-popping animation. The story is poignant, and its telling suggests many deeper levels of meaning that can be explored and considered while a viewer is watching attentively without words to serve as a distraction. Unfortunately, the film lacks a certain pull due to its style, and though it should manage to draw in viewers by its end, it can’t be enthralling for all of its theoretically brief eighty minutes.


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