Saturday, December 12, 2020

La tortue rouge/The Red Turtle (2016)

There is a certain efficiency in simplicity.  With no dialogue, you focus on the visuals.  Of course, you have to have a movie worthy or such visuals.  They have to carry the story without the aid of explanation.  When a man washes up on the shore of an island, we may very well be resigned to never finding out who he is.  This doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a past, or a future for that matter.

His future is determined to be on that island.  He has plenty of bamboo to build rafts, but a giant red turtle has other plans for him.  Every time he builds a bigger raft, she destroys it.  He eventually flips over the turtle in frustration, ostensibly killing the creature.  He falls asleep only to awaken to a beautiful woman in the now-broken red shell, who he grows to love.  They spend a life together on the island, eventually having a son who leaves to make his own life.

On the one hand, the movie is relatable.  We can all imagine the frustration of being denied the ability to leave the island.  On the other hand, there is a bit of mystery which some might find odd.  I have to admit that I had to look up an explanation after watching the movie.  While the only fantastical act is the turtle turning into a woman, there is a lot of metaphor in the movie.

For starters, the man tries to use nature to escape the island, but is constantly rebuked by the turtle.  He’s turned back to the island, where he has to live.  This, of course, denies him any connection to his own kind, which the turtle eventually provides.

There is that otherworldly feel to the movie, which those familiar with Ghibli movies will recognize.  It’s not going to be for everyone, though.  It’s safe enough to play for children of any age, but I could see a lot of school-aged children just enjoying it for the visuals.  Any sort of context is going to be completely lost on them.

Even as an adult, I get the impression that the movie is saying that there’s something inescapable about our relationship with nature.  I can’t really say more than that.  Maybe that man and nature might not be one, but our fates are intertwined, much as a married couple’s might be.  One takes care of the other.  It’s not until we accept that that we can move on and be productive.


IMDb page


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