DVD reviews: The Red Turtle, Dunkirk and Song to Song

David Gritten / 20 September 2017

Our film critic selects an enchanting animation from Studio Ghibli, a restoration of the 1958 film Dunkirk and the latest film from Terrence Malick.

The Red Turtle

This enchanting, dream-like animated film is effectively a ‘circle of life’ story – told without dialogue. It’s about a man, shipwrecked on a tropical desert island, who tries to escape but finds his raft repeatedly capsized. The culprit turns out to be a giant red turtle, who magically sheds its shell to become a woman. She and the man become lovers and raise a son together.

The boy grows up and yearns to escape the island, reluctantly leaving his parents to grow old together. It’s a moving story with the trappings of a fable, greatly enhanced by the film’s visual beauty. It hints at the natural closeness between humans and animals. And it doesn’t flinch from dangers in life: a powerful tsunami is powerfully evoked when its huge waves crash on the island.

Though the film is produced by the legendary Japanese Studio Ghibli, its animator Michael Dudok de Wit is Dutch and lives in London. What he has created here is a beautiful, satisfying masterpiece.

The Red Turtle is out on DVD and Double Play on September 25.

Dunkirk (1958)

A new restoration of Leslie Norman’s classic wartime epic offers an intriguing chance to compare and contrast with Christopher Nolan’s spectacular new film about Operation Dynamo.

This original Dunkirk is, as you might expect, a more sober account of these remarkable events. It’s shot in black and white, and director Norman had none of the sophisticated filming gadgetry at Nolan’s disposal. For all that, it’s a decent piece of film-making: John Mills has the best role as a tough, plucky army corporal, reluctantly in charge of a small unit, separated from the main British forces in France.

There’s no shortage of extras playing soldiers on the beaches (the film was shot at Camber Sands in Sussex) and the sheer scale of the enterprise is dutifully conveyed. Richard Attenborough has an intriguing role as a boat owner initially reluctant to help the war effort by using his craft to bring some stranded soldiers back home; but on the whole, British decency and courage are the film’s prevailing virtues.   

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