The 7th Art: The Language of Silence in The Red Turtle

Written by Aya I. Shaaban

The Red Turtle, originally titled in French La Tortue Rouge, was released non-commercially at the end of 2016 then had its official wide release just at the beginning of 2017. It is currently nominated for an Academy Award in the Animated Feature Film category; however, amidst giants such as Moana, Zootopia, and Kubo and the Two Strings does such a film (with much less publicity) have an equal chance at taking home the award?


The film opens with a man battling a raging storm in the middle of the sea till he drifts away onto an island and becomes conscious in the morning. With no one around, except some animals, the man decides to build a raft and try to find his way back to civilization. At his first attempt, he sails a good distance away from the shore only to find a mysterious force from below the sea rattling the raft and breaking it; he swims back to the shore, frustrated. He repeats the process with another raft yet the same happens; exasperated, he builds a much bigger raft only for the same to happen, but he finally discovers the force responsible for obstructing his escape: a giant red sea turtle. They share a peculiar encounter, where the man initially fears the mighty sea creature then despises it – his whole situation causes him to suffer from a mental breakdown, which makes him take actions he would not necessarily take otherwise.

Analysis & Themes:

The Red Turtle speaks the worldliest of languages – that of silence. There is no dialogue throughout the entirety of the film as it communicates a purely visual (and musical) language. Looking at the bigger picture, the main themes highlighted are nature and life itself – what happens in the span between birth and death becomes a question and we are offered to take a critical look at life as it is removed from civilization and taken to nature: supposedly, where life originated from. Arguably, civilization has helped us in many respects such as learning to live together, developing beneficial technology, and ensuring survival of humans. However, it has also corrupted and exploited nature with problems such as depletion of natural resources, pollution, warfare, and more… Some of the biggest crises of our century are represented in the film, like climate change, leaving “home”, making a “home”, adaptation to dire circumstances, finding companionship, confusion about the purpose and meaning of life, and many more which can be found hidden in the subtext of the film.

Final Verdict:

Overall, this is a wonderful film suitable for diverse groups of people as it has potential to bridge differences together with its unique communication method and visual aesthetic. The Red Turtle deserves the Academy Award because it embodies several integral values which all films should aspire to present. It is a great model for many future films to come, whether animated or not.


Have you seen The Red Turtle yet? What other animated films have you enjoyed in the past? Let us know in the comments.


About Aya Shaaban

It’s Aya, but usually referred to by my last name ‘Shaaban’; senior Sociology student at the American University in Cairo with a triple minor to complement since I hate having free time and would rather kill myself studying. Three things I profoundly hate are bad grammar, atrocious spelling, and plagiarism so I was probably born to be a copy editor. My biggest guilty pleasure is being a fangirl; I’m a fangirl at heart but I don’t fangirl over one thing for too long, usually I find one thing to obsess over for a while then I move on to the next thing.

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2 thoughts on “The 7th Art: The Language of Silence in The Red Turtle

  • June 4, 2017 at 7:56 am

    Is a deceptively simple tale that ends up being so much deeper than it originally seems. Told through gorgeous animation, this is a film that marvelously encompasses life itself, resulting in not just the best animated film of last year, but one of the best of the last several years. It’s a terrible shame that the film was only given a limited release, for it’s one that should be seen by all who appreciate the depths that animated films can reach when filmmakers of the genre are willing to go above and beyond.

    • October 22, 2017 at 10:14 pm

      Hello, I apologize for the belated reply. You are absolutely right and I 100% agree. I would also like to add that this film has the potential of becoming a classic in the years to come. It is one which beautifully ages over time and needs time to “ripen”, so to speak.


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