Sunday, March 11, 2018

Review of 'The Red Turtle' (Spoiler Alert - don't read if you haven't seen the film and want to)

I was expecting quite a different film from the brief description on IMDB: "A man is shipwrecked on a deserted island and encounters a red turtle, which changes his life." I thought it would be about a man and a turtle, but it mainly isn't - because the turtle (which the man has apparently killed) transforms into a beautiful woman, who becomes his companion for the rest of his life. They have a child, who in the course of the film grows up to be a man and eventually leaves them with some other turtles.

It's a downer of a film, even though it's very beautiful - fabulous Ghibli-style animation. It's sometimes quite scary, and often moving. I'm usually affected by films (and plays) that manage to show the arc of a whole life, and this did.

For what it's worth, my take is that the film is not intended to taken as a 'realistic' fairy-tale, but rather as a visual presentation of a hallucination. In the first part, before he meets the turtle-woman, we see quite a few of the shipwrecked man's hallucinations, including a string quartet playing on the beach which disappears as he approaches. I think he has actually died quite early in the film, so that the rest of the narrative is actually his dying hallucination. That would make it quite similar to the William Golding book Pincher Martin, in which the final pages reveal that the entire course of the novel (also about a shipwrecked sailor) didn't happen, the narrator imagined the events described as he died.

One more thing; within the narrative, the man and the turtle-woman grow old together, and then he lays down and dies, and she turns back into a turtle and swims away. If people and turtles did have relationships, they'd be dominated by the inescapable fact that turtles live much longer than people - so it would be like our relationships with cats - we can love them but know we will witness their deaths.

Watched at Lansdown Hall as part of Stroud Film Festival, in front of a very full audience of adults and childrens.

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