“The Red Turtle” won instant adulation when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this year, with many reserving particular praise for director Michaël Dudok de Wit’s ability to tell his story without the assistance of dialogue. De Wit spoke to the Film Stage about his experience making the film, which marks Studio Ghibli’s first international co-production, explaining that he was so shocked when the vaunted animation studio reached out to him that he asked, “Can you explain why you chose me?
De Wit, who hails from the Netherlands, received an Academy Award for his animated short “Father and Daughter.” That film, it turns out, also caught the attention of Studio Ghibli. He frequently sought feedback from them throughout the process, he explains, and was pleasantly surprised by how much autonomy he was afforded. “Their studio head said, ‘In our studio, the director decides. It’s always been this way.'”
“The Red Turtle” wasn’t intended to be entirely free of dialogue, though there was never much to begin with. The idea for it to be wordless was one of Ghibli’s major contributions: “We’ve been thinking about the list of words that are supposed to be spoken in the film and we think you should drop the dialogue entirely,” they told him. From there it was a matter of altering the story just enough for it to work.
De Wit also explains the influence of Greek mythology on his film, the awards buzz it’s generated and his thoughts on making a film with a major studio. Read his full interview here.