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.
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