Monday, 21 April 2014

Fantastic Planet (1973) 70's Marathon 4#

Directed by: René Laloux
Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Animation
71 Minutes

I don’t know where to start with this one. It was a surreal and entrancing experience. It was as if the art style of Dr Seuss met the Monty Python animations, and experimented with acid; producing a truly psychedelic animated movie. The film has an extraordinary vision, of a society divided between the Traags and the Oms, with Oms being considered ‘pets’ and ‘animals’ to the Traags, who appear to be a species of knowledge and information. What I love about the 70’s through to the 80’s is all the odd and offbeat animated films that began being made that were more directed towards a mature audience, and this one adds to the list of peculiar animation. The images alone will get you interested to watch this one!

The Oms appear to look like humans, but to the Traags (whom are about 1000 times bigger) they are primitive creatures- similar to the way we would view insects or other small species. Traags sometimes keep ‘domesticated Oms’ (meaning not wild/savage) as pets. The film opens to a female Om and her baby, running- but we see a hand interfering. The hand eventually picks her up and lets go, killing the Om (quite vicious eh?) The Traag then takes this baby Om, and calls it Terr. 

The visuals can be best described as psychedelic and outlandish. Out of all the animation and movies I have seen, there is something unique about the entire film. It is based on a French book, written in 1957 called Oms en série. First, seeing the image of the poster instantly had my attention and curiosity, and made me really want to see the film. I would go as far to say that Fantastic Planet is one of the most forgotten Sci-Fi/Fantasy films of our time. While it is only 70 minutes long, we see strange buildings, the functioning of a foreign-to-us society, strange beasts and creatures and something that I would have to say shows real exceptionality. Even the music was trippy and absorbing. I may get the soundtrack for it. The music really added to the sense of a different world.

What is fascinating with this film is that there is not that much written about it. Roger Ebert, Leonard Maltin, Gene Siskel, Jonathan Rosenbaum; it seems none of these famous critics have reviewed the film. This really leaves the film open with analysis and interpretation. The film has plenty of mystery.

The film shows a bit of influence from Gulliver's Travels.
The message of Fantastic Planet in some ways can be seen as a critique of our own civilization. In this world, knowledge is power and an essential for the Traags. We see a shot showing the Traags lined up ready for a ‘meditation exam’ that is “essential step in the development of their intellectual material”- it is almost as if this is a critique of our education system, showing how we go through the ‘system’ as if we are on an assembly line.

Then there are parts of the film that almost seem political. The Traags talk of machines and efficiency, and how the Oms are an inferior race, until later in the film they discover they underestimated the Oms. This shows the foolishness of humankind in a comparable way to Planet of the Apes which shows a species rising against another. When we see the Oms starting what I would see as a rebellion, we see them build up a society, showing that they are not like the Traags predicted. Terr, the domesticated Om who breaks free from the Traags steals a device that the Traags use for information and study- he learns the stuff Traags know, and learns to read their writing. This shows just how true it is that knowledge is power and power is knowledge. He uses this information, and brings it to the other Oms, where they then begin to build their own society. Furthermore, it looks at how that which we do not fully understand can be ill-treated.

There is so much imagination and content in the film, I think that on repeat viewings it would bring you closer to what exactly the film was trying to show. For now, what we can see is a vividly imaginative world full of strange beasts, and a development of a civilization. This film is bound to have you curiously glued to the screen in fascination of both the animation style and the story. I would love to know what others who have seen this think so be sure to comment! Also, the film has been uploaded in parts to YouTube, so check it out below!

Full Movie Part 1:

I was deeply confused.


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