Having garnered a number of awards at 2016 film festivals, including the Prix spécial « Un Certain Regard » at Cannes, Studio Ghibli’s The Red Turtle is due for general release in 2017. In the meantime, Vienna’s animated-film enthusiasts can view a one-off screening at the Filmcasino on January 14th.

 

A new film from Studio Ghibli is always an occasion for celebration among animation enthusiasts, given the studio’s reputation for making exquisite animated films. The Red Turtle is Ghibli’s latest outing, and it marks the first time in over three decades that the Japanese animation studio has invited an outsider to direct a film for them.

Ukiyo-e woodcut print by Katsushika Hokusai, 1829-33. (Photo: ukiyo-e.org)

To grasp the import of this, a little background is necessary. Japanese culture has a long history of celebrating the drawn image: notable examples of this include the 17th-century artistic genre of ukiyo-e (“pictures of the floating world”), as well as the contemporary media of manga and anime (comics and animation, respectively). Permeating all walks of life, these media form an intrinsic part of Japanese culture.

Studio Ghibli is a cultural titan, both inside and outside of Japan. With five Academy Award nominations (winning in 2003 for Spirited Away), Ghibli is a touchstone for many – appealing to both children and adults alike. Their films are emotionally complex, tackle themes of social responsibility and environmental awareness, and brim over with dazzling imaginative charm and fondness for the minutiae of everyday life.

Despite being a studio employing over a hundred people, Ghibli’s filmmaking often embodies something of the auteur tradition, a process that was beautifully recorded in the 2013 documentary The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness.

Around 2008, Studio Ghibli chose to break with a 30-year tradition of producing films in-house by inviting the Dutch animator Michael Dudok de Wit to direct a film for them.. This invitation was based on the strength of his sublime animated short Father and Daughter (winner of an Academy Award in 2001).

After a screening of the film at the 2016 Toronto Film Festival, Dudok de Wit stated that “… a profound, deep awe for nature” formed the emotional basis for The Red Turtle, a fact evident in every beautifully rendered frame.

Still from The Red Turtle, ©Studio Ghibli

 

Without any dialogue, the film tells the story of a castaway on a verdant island, his life stripped bare of the trappings of civilisation, and the richness of his ensuing experience – portrayed with occasional touches of fantasy. According to Dudok de Wit, it is “… more than about survival, it’s about life in general.”

To say much more would take away from the joy of experiencing the film, but suffice it to say that it is a masterful and deeply reverent celebration of nature and a life lived amidst it.


The Red Turtle

 

Special screening prior to general release

Filmcasino, Sat. Jan 14, 14:00

Additional screening on Sat. Jan 28, 14:00

 

Father and Daughter film:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usRRDQwOn7g