The bond between character and audience is vital, and it works on a very human level
The phrase ‘silent film’ is bandied about far too often. So called ‘silent’ films are praised and critiqued just like any other picture, but there is often an ethereal nature branded onto them. Yet, The Red Turtle is not a silent film. Yes, it has no dialogue, but the noises and sounds created for the picture are just as important as any of the animation in creating the finished scenes and giving across its overarching message.
The Red Turtle follows a shipwrecked man as he tries to escape the desert island he finds himself on. He starts by creating rafts from bamboo, but every time he sets sail, his construction is destroyed by a mysterious creature swimming beneath the surface.
This is not a film afraid of taking its own path to understanding. There is a huge amount of morality and tolerance based within the film’s framework, and it plays out beautifully. The main character is the sole narrative for most of the film and it captures this sense of understanding with the man. As an audience, we only learn when he does. The bond between character and audience is vital, and it works on a very human level.
The use of colour throughout really propels the empathy of the piece, and it holds an impeccable sense of mystery whilst doing so. Specifically the opening act, there is a tensity and connection to what the man is experiencing. Though it is a little difficult to connect with in the latter stages, there is an inherent quality throughout, and a purposeful frustration does help to break down some of the barriers set up by the films initial quiet nature.
The Red Turtle is not the best work to come out of Studio Ghibli, because Ghibli will always be at its best when it looks at characters and relationships, and although The Red Turtle holds dear these themes, they certainly aren’t in abundance. What it does do however, is to create an amazing understanding through its connection of animation and sound. If nothing else, The Red Turtle will get the mind whirring.