The Red Turtle: Director’s Choice to Show Rather than Tell

The Red Turtle is a Studio Ghibli film nominated for an academy award in the best animated feature film category. It is unique from other films in this category, such as Zootopia, because it does not use dialogue throughout the entire film. Director Michael Dudok de Wit talks with Indiewire about this choice and why he feels it is appropriate for this film, beginning with the fact that the main character wakes up in a forest alone; therefore, there would be no need for dialogue as he has no one to talk to. While de Wit didn’t feel the beginning of the film needed dialogue, he did believe that dialogue would be used later to clarify some aspects of the story. As production progressed, he began to change his mind and shift towards the idea that character’s body gestures and the frame could communicate the point without the use of dialogue at all.

I found this interesting as a student filmmaker and feel that most filmmakers, not just student filmmakers, could learn from de Wit’s choices in The Red Turtle. The idea of showing the audience instead of telling the audience is a common criticism given to a script or film that is dialogue heavy, but it is a lot more difficult to achieve this ability to show the audience than the critics often suggest. De Wit is successful in his lack of dialogue as he seems to understand something that escapes many filmmakers, which is that film is a visual medium; therefore, a story can be told more powerfully through a gesture from a character than a line of dialogue in many instances.

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