In the world of animation, the name Studio Ghibli has become a byword for quality. Having produced some of the most technically dazzling and emotionally gripping animated features of the last 30 years, expectations for their latest offering would naturally run high.
Those who have come to expect a certain look and feel from a Studio Ghibli film, however, will need to reorientate themselves for the latest release, The Red Turtle. In a series of firsts for the studio, creative control is now shared, with Western collaborators, no less: director Michael Dudok de Wit and production company Wild Bunch.
While this decision might be seen as a creative compromise by some, the finished product suggests otherwise, with the injection of this new talent giving the film a startling freshness. The minimalistic approach to design synonymous with Studio Ghibli is retained here and perfectly complements the Herge (he of Tintin fame)-inspired animation style, with its strong lines and block colouring.
What might not appeal to audiences so much is the film’s willful wordlessness. With the pervasive silences broken only by short bursts of guttural noise (screams and groans) or the ambient sounds of wind and wave, the visual sense becomes more highly attuned. Without the distraction of dialogue, it is the world outside that commands our attention rather than the individual characters.
Despite the danger of alienating the audience with this approach, The Red Turtle offers those looking for a more meditative film-going experience something worth thinking about. Chris Prindiville
‘The Red Turtle’ screens as part of the Perth International Arts Festival Lotterywest film program at UWA Somerville until January 1 and then at ECU Joondalup January 3-8, 2017.
For more details and ticket purchases visit perthfestival.com.au.