Tag Archives: poignant

THE RED TURTLE

“…a film with a big heart and a profound message…”

Wayward Wolf.

Whilst admittedly not my genre of choice, when one considers the vast number of hours it must surely have taken to piece together, The Red Turtle, it is a truly staggering achievement. Of course, the building blocks of this particular animation are probably no different to those employed in any number of other animations of its type, but for those of us that rarely stray into this territory, it’s a rare opportunity to ponder and marvel at such things.

Michael Dudok de Wit’s tale opens with a man in a desperate fight for his life, floundering among the storm waves, without recourse to any form of sea-faring vessel. Luckily the sea eventually deposits him, weary but still alive, on the shore of a remote tropical island from which he must attempt to escape if he is ever to return to ‘civilisation’ again.

This is however easier said than done, with each of his numerous attempts frustrated time and again by the meddling exploits of a giant red turtle. Every one of the man’s crudely assembled log rafts, once afloat, is quickly battered into pieces by the powerful ‘butting’ action of this crimson watery thwarter – a sort of vengeful turtle wrecking ball, if you will.

Try as he might to escape, it’s almost as though fate has other plans for our man.

Spotting the turtle on land one day, and beside himself with rage, the man seizes his opportunity, summoning all of his strength to flip the red menace onto its back, leaving it there to perish in the merciless rays of the tropical sun.

Pangs of remorse, however, begin to overcome him, and he attempts unsuccessfully to reverse his actions.

Much grief and shame is duly felt, but with the turtle’s passing comes a remarkable and unexpected opportunity for genuine fulfilment in the man’s life.

Michael Dudok de Wit’s charming piece places us all in the initially enviable scenario of paradise found, though quickly revealing the harsh realities of survival, not to mention the full force of mother nature’s unpredictability.

Whilst The Red Turtle is visually stunning and impressive in its simplicity, it is however so much more than an expertly-honed, visually sumptuous animation, it’s a film with a big heart and a profound message through its exploration of the cycle and core components of our lives: survival, freedom, love, loss, loneliness, and of course the unavoidable inevitability of death.

Almost entirely bereft of dialogue throughout – bar a few guttural grunts and squeaks of joy – the film’s direction offers the space and opportunity for our minds to contemplate and wander. Much emphasis is therefore placed upon Laurent Perez Del Mar’s emotive soundtrack, which, through its Morricone-esque use of soaring soprano lines, compliments the exquisite animation perfectly.

It’s evident that much love and attention – not to mention ‘man-hours’ – have been lavished upon The Red Turtle, resulting in a wonderfully poignant and truly rewarding film.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FILM REVIEW: Youth

Any film that commences with a character spurning the slippery recruitment drive of one of her majesty’s sycophantic ‘yes men’, automatically has me on-side.
Happily, this remains the case throughout director Paolo Sorrentino’s poignant and thought provoking, Youth.
Retired composer Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) and his friend, film-maker, Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel), are relaxing at a beautiful health and wellness retreat in the Swiss Alps.
It’s a serene location; somewhere where two friends can unwind and contemplate their lot.
Fred’s position in life seems certain. He’s retired with no plans of a return, whereas successful film-maker Mick, surrounded by a group of eager and substantially younger up-and-coming writers, is using the trip to work on the script for his latest, and greatest (in his mind at least), magnum opus. Here, he thrives on the youthful energy and creative influence that his young cohorts inject into his project. Mick may be of older years, but he remains a man full of drive and ambition.
Unlike Fred… whose rebuttal of the Queen’s advances, whilst commendable in isolation, is not simply some anti-establishment stance that he’s chosen to take; there are far more deep-rooted, personal reasons for his dismissal of the offer placed on the table that will become clearer as scenes unfold. That is of no consolation though to a clearly staggered royal foot soldier.
Together with Fred and Mike at the resort is Fred’s daughter, Lena, (Rachel Weisz) who organises Fred’s affairs and schedule in her dual role as his assistant. It’s a loving yet strained relationship owing to Fred’s largely absent father routine during Lena’s formative years.
One of the chief triumphs of Youth is David Lang’s superbly evocative soundtrack. One quirky musical scene in particular stands out with Fred conducting a sort of cowbell ensemble in a field. The performers? The cows themselves.
There is however one key motif in particular taken from one of composer Ballinger’s renowned ‘Simple Songs’ which springs up time and again throughout the film in a variety of forms, from the rhythmic rustling of a sweet wrapper in hand, to a child’s afternoon violin practice, right up to its tumultuous, full-on emotional realisation at the film’s conclusion. It’s a theme that plays a key role in shaping the film’s structure and flow.
Indeed, it seems that Sorrentino is a director highly influenced by the power of music in film, as confirmed in Lang’s own words: “When talking to him [Sorrentino] about it, it was very clear that music was part of the organizing principle of the film.”
Youth is a piece that ruminates over those existential questions that we all mull over. In observation of a wide variety of weird and wonderful fellow resort dwellers, Fred and Mick try to contemplate what it is to be young, to be old, famous, reclusive, obese, decrepit or of body beautiful; a luxury perhaps only afforded to those that can truly say that time and worries are not pressing on them?
Try as they might, this is a luxury that neither Fred nor Mick can truly claim to have.
It’s a visually stunning, sonically sumptuous piece, rich in symbolism, and both Caine and Keitel are tremendous in their respective roles, as is Weisz. Whilst there are a couple of questionable, ‘clunky’ moments which appear to come straight out of left field – the Paloma Faith sequence in particular seems out of place and unnecessary within the whole scheme of things – such moments fortunately vanish as quickly as they appear, and crucially, leave no lasting negative impression.
Youth is a melancholic meditation on ageing, coming to terms with both life and mortality, and our attempts to find some semblance of inner peace as we inch ever closer towards our maker.
Alternatively, Youth is about the kind of levels of gratification that can only be achieved through finally being able to pass four drops of piss after three days of trying.
You choose.
Wonderful stuff.

FILM REVIEW: Sunset Song

I thought Agyness Deyn was just a model? Well, you live and learn!

Actually, in all fairness, I barely even knew that.

Sunset Song is in many ways a wistful homage to life, love, family and the beautiful Scottish countryside.

This is a film adaptation of Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s 1932 novel of the same name, set chiefly in Blairwearie, on the fictional estate of Kinraddie in North East Scotland, where Chris lives with her mother, brother and tyrannical father – a convincing turn here from Peter Mullan who you’ll recall played an equally unhinged character in Paddy Considine’s very excellent Tyrannosaur.

Agyness Deyn is surprisingly excellent portraying Chris, the softly spoken, bonny country lass with the gentle eyes, whose intelligence and academic achievements are seemingly paving the way for her to realise her ambition of a career in teaching.

Life however, as is so often the case, has other plans, and following the suicide of her mother and the abandonment of the homestead by her brother Will (Jack Greenlees), Chris has no option but to remain in Blairwearie and work on the farm with her father, whose ‘ways’ have been the sole catalyst for both her mother’s untimely death and brother’s departure.

With the pair now departed, it will be Chris’ turn to bare the brunt of her father’s abusive ways.

Chris’s life, seemingly now set to be one of functionality, drudgery and regret, is transformed though when life takes one of its unexpected turns and subsequently she enters a relationship with local lad, Ewan (the Leighton Baines-esque, Kevin Guthrie), but it will be a love that induces in Chris both the peak of her happiness and the very depths of her despair.

Sunset Song is strong in its insinuation that we don’t just grow up, move on, and leave all of our baggage behind us, but that life is in fact rather cyclical. What happens to our parents will therefore, in some respect at least, likely be our experience too, despite our best efforts, and we all therefore share – in the broader sense of the term at least – the same experiences of hope, happiness and misfortune, much as did every generation that ever preceded us.

This is certainly true in Chris’ case. She, a young farmer’s daughter, at the turn of the 19th/20th century, shawn of realistic opportunities to spread her wings, there’s therefore a certain inevitability to the life that lies ahead of her.
Whilst occasionally evocative, sometimes poignant and always visually beautiful, it should however be said that it’s a film that almost feels a little too long, possibly a bit forced in places and very nearly one with a tendency to veer too far into the domain of the formulaic in its latter stages.
Credit then to Director Terence Davies, for casting model, turned actress, Agyness Deyn in a role which ultimately leaves the viewer’s over-riding impression of Sunset Song as a favourable one. Deyn produces a tender performance that is very much the glue that holds it all together.
A gentle, unassuming film; unexpectedly enjoyable and an actress from whom big things must surely be expected in the near future.