“The Red Turtle”

“The Red Turtle” is an absolute masterpiece in terms of animation.  It is so powerful visually and as deep as a story that it is difficult not to fell in love at it from the first sight. The director discusses serious philosophical themes, such as the place of a man in the world and the evolution theory, with the help of this light, watercolor style animated film. And this combination of immaculate and tender graphics, enormous amount of details, and the seriousness of the plot makes “The Red Turtle” the animated film for all types of auditory. I think that “The Red Turtle” is the animated film which consists of many levels: on the surface it will be interesting to children, and adults will also have the opportunity to solve its riddles and interpret its metaphors.  I believe that this film can teach us a lot about the place of a human being in the world and the connection which a man has with nature. This film impressed me immensely with its impeccable visual style, choice of colors and sounds, but, above all, this film impressed me with its powerful message. Human being is a part of natural cycle of birth and death- I think this is the principal message of this animated film. 

  Visual aspect of the animated film is absolutely impeccable. Each detail was thoroughly thought and implemented in life after hours of observation. Starting from the grains of sand and ending with the shadows of the flying birds: all the objects in the animated film are beautiful in their realism and are precise and vivid. Realism in depiction of nature is impressive and one can hardly believe that the nature can be as beautiful as it is in “The Red Turtle”. Yet beauty is in the eye of beholder and it turns out that Micheal Dudok de Wit, the director of the animated film, resembles Zen Buddhist monks in his ability to observe nature and capture its elusive beauty with the help of animation.  Long and accurate observation of nature in all its manifestation was the basis for creation of this animated film.

It is also necessary to understand that a nameless man from “The Red Turtle” is not the main hero of the animated film. He is just the object for concentration of the director`s attention. It is the nature in all it grandeur and with all its power which becomes the real main hero of “The Red Turtle”. A man is analyzed only as a part of nature, and reminding viewers about this simple true, the director, first of all, aims to change the attitude of a man to nature.  The director might also want viewers reconsider their place in the cycle of life, which at the closest speculation, becomes similar to the cycles of life of plants and animals. 

To understand the aesthetic and philosophical value of the film it is necessary to analyze several scenes from it in more detail. It will be clear how the choice of angles, colors, sounds, and topic contributes to the appearance of a perfect animated film. In one of the first scenes the man is captured standing on the rock: he has just found himself on the island and is in the process of exploration. The extreme long shot is used in this case and is used as the scene setting; Low angle is used to show how small the man is compared to the rocks. The director chooses to look at the man from distance to show how small the man is and how huge the rock is compared to this man.   He is just a little spot on the top of the cliff which resembles a huge grey body of an unknown animal. And then the man falls down accidently and got captured by the rocks. A similar shot will soon depict another human being at the same place, the man`s son, but  everything will be different for this next human being. 

The director plays with light with a huge talent, the light changes according to all the physical laws. Here is the man, the protagonist of the movie, on the top of the rock illuminated by the setting sun. The next moment and he falls and he is captured by stones and water that get dark and colorless.  Dark abyss in which a man is just another spot makes viewers understand all helplessness and all fragility of the human being. The man looks up and all he notices is how the setting sun colors the upper pieces of cliffs. The light remains far away and he is captured by the dark world.  Again, the scene in this gorge is amazing because of the rapid change of colors that fade away. In other scenes  the sea water is depicted as a myriad of little crystals of all the imaginable colors-blue, green, white, turquoise, violet, purple, orange, beige. In this scene the water becomes monochrome. 

The audience hears nothing but gulls and human`s cries which creates a beautiful soundtrack of nature. The soundtrack of the animated film deserves special attention. It is no doubt that the director did not want to make music a part of the movie because natural sounds are the music for those who can hear them. Nature creates one long never-ending melody, and a man never remains in complete silence under any circumstances.  Does a man hear this melody? Yes if he becomes a part of nature. The man in the story was opposing nature, he was fighting with it for a long that is why he was not capable to hear the real melody of the world. He dreamed about some opera orchestra and was attracted by it enormously. 

Another memorable scene for analysis that evokes a lot of ideas is the scene on a beach with a little baby. It is worth noticing that the theme of evolution is very important for understanding of this animated film as well. Evolution is shown not as some survival of the strongest but as gradual and compulsory improvement. The man who appears on the deserted island accidentally is not accustomed to living there. He is alien on this island and the island looks hostile and threatening to him. He cannot swim well, he starves often, and he spends most of his life chasing the dream to escape. He is not used to living on the island, he seems weak and frustrated all the time. While he son who is born on the island feels himself a part of the island. He is evolutionary stronger and more confident to living on this island. He is joyful and happy most of the time because nature is not perceived by him as something alien and hostile. Nature is in the genes of the child and he grew stronger with the help of evolution. So it is possible to say that the theme of evolution is reconsidered deeply in this animated film. 

The scene when the child, who was born on the island, is learning about the world is magnificent. He does it with the help of drawing like first people did it before words were invented.  The birds-eye view is very important in this scene because it allows to capture the whole family and their drawings. This angle may also imply that something or someone is watching people from above. Though the theme of God is not discussed in the story, and nature becomes a real God. In some episodes one can think that only divine hand could create such enormous beauty. Besides this angle makes one recall how first people draw on the walls of the caves.  The director chooses simple colors for this scene: only yellow, brown, and orange. Compared to the colors of nature men are not able to paint so brightly and creatively yet.   However, they still try to do it to pass the knowledge to younger generation. 

The third scene for analysis is the scene with the boy`s dream. This element of dream incorporates some mystical element into the story. First of all, this dream is really symbolic, and the director of the film shows that even first people on the planet were able to relate to their dreams and interpret them somehow. The boy sees how the wave got frozen and how can easily climb to the top of it. Using the bird`s-eye angle the boy watches at his parent who now seem distant to him.  The light in the scene and the colors are also peculiar: the whole vision appears to be in a dim light, illuminated from inside. The colors are warm and a bit surreal, and that hints on the idea that that is just a dream of the boy.  Everything suddenly becomes green in the boy`s eyes and he realizes that he has never seen the island from such a height and from such an angle. The theme of evolution is also crucial for understanding of this scene: the boy evolved and now he wants to see the world beyond the island. The boy understands that there is something beyond this beauty because he has got a bottle. Yet he is different from his father because he is able to adapt to nature and become a part of it. That is why he does not build a raft- he swims with turtles because he is one of them. 

In my opinion, “The Red Turtle” is a beautiful and deep animated film that can be equally interesting for children and adults. I believe that in the center of the director’s attention is nature, and a man who is only the part of nature. The director observes it thoroughly and recreates it on the screen using light watercolor palette and thin and exquisite lines. That helps viewers realize this simple truth that beauty is in the eye of beholder because nature in reality is incredible and breathtaking. However, the director emphasizes the fact that it is important to see a man`s life as a part of natural cycle –not in the opposition. I am sure, that it is one essential and extremely important idea for any person in a modern world, and it was immensely important for me. I believe that most of the problems the humanity has, come from the desire of people to forget about their connection to nature and fight it. Only when people accept this fact and understand the essence of nature, they become real people. I guess this animated film helped every viewer to connect with nature in artistic ways: through colors, sounds, images. It was almost possible to hear gulls and feel the taste of oysters.  A man is born to explore the world and die but nature made him stronger by improving man`s genes and making him more adjusted to the world. I think that “The Red Turtle” is the movie about search of lost inner peace and harmony which can often be found inside oneself rather than outside.  Dudok deWit hints that something silence is all one may need for this.