Saturday, August 27, 2016

Refined Minimalism in LA TORTUE ROUGE / THE RED TURTLE

Michael Dudok de Wit's mostly hand-drawn animated feature LA TORTUE ROUGE/THE RED TURTLE is not only Studio Ghibli's first international co-production (they even coaxed the Dutch master animator into creating it) but also a poetic masterpiece and one of my (if not the) greatest cinematic experiences this year. It should absolutely be seen in a cinema, if only to immerse yourself in the engulfing sound design.

In the following video essay I focus on Dudok de Wit's specific style of visual minimalism that already worked so well in LE MOINE ET LE POISSON (THE MONK AND THE FISH, 1994) and FATHER AND DAUGHTER (2000) which are among my favorite animated short films. Since THE RED TURTLE has only just begun its theatrical run and is not available on DVD, I completely rely on images and clips from the official promotional material in order to illustrate concepts that I have found during the two times I was able to see the whole film. There are no allusions to the story and therefore no spoilers. By the way, this is my first video essay with a commentary spoken in English which - as you will notice - is not my native language.

Refined Minimalism: an analysis of visual composition in THE RED TURTLE from Oswald Iten on Vimeo.

Coinciding with the films Swiss premiere at FANTOCHE a German version can be found here on

There is so much more to savor and write about in THE RED TURTLE that I will probably return to it in a future post for a review or a discussion of artistic producer Takahata Isao's influence. I certainly would want to ask Michael Dudok de Wit whether THE NAKED ISLAND (Shindo, 1960) was an inspiration at all.

The incredibly subtle, highly consistent character animation that - unexpectedly for a silent film - relies on very small, realistic movements instead of grand gestures deserves a detailed analysis itself. But this must wait until I have the film available in digital form once the Blu ray/DVD is out.

And last but not least, if you have not seen LE MOINE ET LE POISSON or FATHER AND DAUGHTER yet, see them before you see THE RED TURTLE! Also check out THE AROMA OF TEA, TOM SWEEP and Dudok de Wit's commercials. They are all on youtube.