kaberett: Clyde the tortoise from Elementary, crawling across a map, with a red tape cross on his back. (elementary-emergency-clyde)
[personal profile] kaberett
The Red Turtle is a collaboration between Studio Ghibli and Oscar-winning British-Dutch animator Michaël Dudok de Wit. Having premiered at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, it's had a general release in the UK this week. [personal profile] me_and spotted a poster in one of our local stations; I've just started showing him the Studio Ghibli back catalogue; he suggested going. (It's Ghibli! It's turtles! These seemed like good things.)

The Guardian, in one of many rapturous reviews, says:
Suffice to say that the official one-line synopsis of The Red Turtle – "the milestones in the life of a human being" – rings entirely true; the cycle of birth, death and rebirth is expressed with piercing clarity.


... which is sort of accurate, but very telling about expected audiences, and reviewers, and... everyone involved in the thing.

It is actually the story of a man who is shipwrecked on an island, and his son, and incidentally of the woman who actually carries the child: she is the eponymous red tortoise, killed by our main character and magically transformed into a woman, who ends up falling in love with him (?) for reasons that are never really explored on screen, as far as I can tell. There's a fade-to-black as she inexplicably leads him into a clearing to fuck; the next thing we see on screen is a crawling baby.

The pregnancy is completely elided. So is giving birth. So is breastfeeding. So is child sickness.

... and then, eventually, the son grows up and leaves home; and then, eventually, the woman transforms back into a turtle and disappear back into the sea.

It is fair enough that she's not conceived of as human, I suppose, being as she's literally a turtle, but she's also not... really conceived of as a person.

The Guardian's film reviewers, male-coded names all of them, love it. I'd have loved it so much more if the child had been, as I first interpreted, a girl.

To be clear, I'm glad that I saw it: I loved the animals and the textures and the ways in which one got to know the small island; I loved the atmosphere and the great sweeping shots of tiny people against a vast expanse of sea and sky; I loved the detail of the glass bottle that washed up on the shore, echoing a much earlier barrel.

I just really wish that it didn't, in framing itself as universal, once again write the experiences of anyone who's not a factory-default man completely out of the story.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-28 06:55 pm (UTC)
recessional: bare-footed person in jeans walks on log (Default)
From: [personal profile] recessional
I'm wondering if the universality is as clearly implied in the original context. (I always wonder about this, in terms of stuff coming from non-European-base culture stuff.)

Like. "The milestones in the life of a human being" means a lot different stuff if we're using "a human being" to mean "any human being", or if we're using it to mean "a human being" as in this specific character is a human being. And the actual sentence could mean either.

/random

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-28 07:11 pm (UTC)
recessional: bare-footed person in jeans walks on log (Default)
From: [personal profile] recessional

Ah ok I thought it was A Ghibli Movie full on. My mistake

Edited Date: 2017-05-28 07:13 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-29 02:37 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] swaldman
Very much not a Ghibli movie in any sense but the art, and I suspect that kids taken to see it in expectation of another film in the Miyazaki mould might be bored.

I loved it, but I do take your point. (and, yes, I'm a fairly factory-default man).

I'm curious as to whether there is existing mythology behind this. I read it as a selkie story - especially with the way she casts away her shell - with a species twist...

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-30 07:37 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] swaldman
I'm not sure I've seen Ponyo! Which is an omission...

Spoilers below, if anybody is concerned by that having read this far.

Yeah, it's a selkie story, but not quite. Firstly, in traditional selkie stories a female selkie doesn't normally *voluntarily* dispose of her skin. Secondly, the killing her (or perhaps nearly killing her) first thing. It made me wonder whether there is existing folklore that it fits better than it does selkies - possibly from the pacific?

What I said on Facebook, I think, was that i found it sad but that I felt that many would find that arguable. Well, the ending made me cry, because we see the child move away, and we see the man die, and we see the woman / turtle acknowledge this and simply carry on, because of course she is a turtle and they live for hundreds of years. The duration of most of his life was a significant investment by her, certainly, but only a modest proportion of her lifespan. And maybe that's why it isn't sad. Yes, there's circle-of-life stuff, which isn't sad, but there's also some sort of beauty in the mismatched timescales and the acceptance, rather than grief, over that. Or at least, that's how I saw it. I suspect it could be read in plenty of ways.
Edited Date: 2017-05-30 07:37 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-31 12:13 am (UTC)
lizcommotion: Lily and Chance squished in a cat pile-up on top of a cat tree (buff tabby, black cat with red collar) (Default)
From: [personal profile] lizcommotion
skipping the spoilers section for now, wondering how I missed this announcement??

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