Co-Written and directed by experienced shorts director Michael Dudok de Wit, The Red Turtle marks his move towards feature length filmmaking, though given the time this one took to make (more than five years), it may be a while before we see him again on the big screen.
To say that would be a shame is something of an understatement because his debut feature is an absolute gem. The plot, such as it is, concerns a man (of no name or origin) being washed up on an isolated desert island with nothing but some very quirky crabs for company. Lush with foliage though, the island isn’t so much hostile as isolating and the man very quickly becomes determined to build a raft in an attempt to make it home. He is scuppered (literally) by an initially invisible malevolent force which soon turns out to be the red turtle of the title.
To reveal much more about the plot would spoil it somewhat and it’s really not necessary in order to encourage you to see this. Almost completely dialogue free (with the exception of the odd plaintive wail), Dudok de Wit’s time has been very well spent on this one. The magnificently painted backgrounds are very reminiscent of The Tale of Princess Kaguya (this production is very much supported by Studio Ghibli) and the impressionistic atmosphere created by the wonderful score and the spot on (and deliberately present) sound effects build to a dreamlike quality.
Indeed, the enigmatic central character, almost breathing island and playful creatures suggest a great deal of what is going on in The Red Turtle is a dream and although the absence of dialogue is stretched at times, the whole thing unfolds like a beautiful dream. On this basis, I really hope that Dudok de Wit is back on our screens sooner rather than later.