1910s & 20s * 30s * 40s * Pre-50s * Frankenstein * Atomic Angst * 1950 * 1951 * 1952 * 1953 * 1954 * 1955 * 1956 * 1957 * 1958 * 1959 *
1960 * 1961 * 1962 * 1963 * 1964 * 1965 * 1966 * 1967 * 1968 * 1969 * 1970 * 1971 * 1972 * 1973 * 1974 * 1975 * 1976 * 1977 * 1978 * 1979

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Fantastic Planet

This animated fantasy / sci-fi tale is said to have had an American release in December of 1973. Retitled as Fantastic Planet (FP), it did seem to have english posters, but the soundtrack remained in French. In France, the title was La Planéte Sauvage and it won the grand prize at the Cannes film festival for 1973. The film was based on a novel by Stefan Wul, "Oms en série" written in 1957. It was adapted to film (via animation) by Roland Tapor, and directed by René Laloux.

Quick Plot Synopsis
A human woman runs from blue giant aliens children. They over-play with her and she dies. Her orphan baby is taken in by Tiwa, pre-teen daughter of Master Sinh who is one of the Draag high council. She puts an electronic leash-collar on him, dresses him up in silly costumes and gives him a doll house to live in. She names him Ter. The Draags spend a lot of time in 'meditation' in which their consciousness floats around in colored spheres. Tiwa loves Ter and carries him everywhere. Draag time is slower. 3 Draag months equal 5 years of human (Om) time. Ter grows into a young man. Tiwa learns school-knowledge from a lesson headband that puts info in her brain. Ter, in her hand, learns the same info. Tiwa loses interest in Ter, so he decides to run away. He takes the headband with him. When Tiwa turns on the leash-collar, he gets stuck in some tree roots. A "wild" young woman Om cuts off his collar. She takes him to her tribe. They live in a hollow tree in an abandoned park. Ter is not accepted at first. He breaks taboo by letting the other Oms learn from the headband. For this infraction, he must duel (large image in poster). He wins, but the fact that he can read Draag writing wins him res[ect. The Oms can steal food packages better knowing what's inside. A rival tribe live in a hollow bush. They capture Ter. About then, the Draags start to De-Om the park with poison gas tablets. Many are killed, but remnants of the two tribes flee outside the park walls. There, they are discovered by two Draags who begin to stomp on the Oms. Ter leads an attack. One Draag is toppled and killed. There is much outrage in the Draag council about the murder. They vow to rid their planet of the wild Oms. Meanwhile, the old woman leader of the Bush tribe leads the remnant to a rocket junkyard as a haven. There, the Oms construct some rockets from the junk and the Draag knowledge via the headband. They want to flee to the planet's moon (The Savage Planet) to escape the Draags. De-Om drones come to the junkyard, so the two rockets take off. On the moon, they find giant headless human bodies, in male-female pairs. The floating Draag spheres land on the necks, then the bodies dance (mostly twirling in place). Some sort of nuptial energizer something. The Oms have a little ray weapon that can shatter the giant bodies. The Draags, upset that Oms have power to destroy them, sue for peace. The Draags make an artificial moon named Terr for the Oms to live on. Everyone seems to get along nicely. The End.

Why is this movie fun?
The art, the fanciful creatures and surreal landscapes, The style is reminiscent of Terry Gilliam's whimsical creatures whipped up for Monty Python skits or movies. There is something akin to Maurice Sendak's "Wild Things" too, though more surreal. Salvador Dlai merged with Dr. Seuss..

Cultural Connection
Popular Rebellion: Adapted to the early 70s, the revolt of the Oms reads like an allegory for the rebellion of youth -- a prevalent theme of the late 60s, early 70s. The Draags are like "The Establishment." They control things. They have the power. While they might be fond of an Om pet, they generally regard them as petty trouble to be controlled. The story line plays out like hopeful prophecy. The Oms (youth) come-of-age, flex their new-found muscle and show the Draags (adults) that they can't be dismissed anymore. The Draags (adults) then accept the Oms (youth) as equals and everyone lives in peace. Thus can FP be seen as a morality play for "next" generation.

Better Than the Book? -- Wul's original novel is said (I've not read it) to be simpler in plot, such that Tapor's adaptation actually includes more of the thought-provoking bits and tangents than the book did.

Passive Oppression -- It was fairly common for sci-fi authors to imagine humans under the oppression of some superior alien race. Whereas the aliens were usually malevolent (ala H.G.Wells' martians), Stefan Wul's Draags were largely indifferent to the Oms (humans), but dangerous because of their size and technology. The Draags do not fear or hate the Oms, so much as they regard them as pests to be managed, as men might regard rats in sewers as tolerable, so long as they don't become a nuisance.

Man Pets -- Wul expanded on an idea H.G.Wells made in passing. In the novel "War of the Worlds" the man on Putney Hill spoke an envisioned future in which mankind lives as an oppressed species on an earth conquered and controlled by the martians. Some, he figured, would live wild (he planned to be one of them) quietly learning the technology of their oppressors so that they might someday rise up and reclaim dominion. Others, he mused, might get adopted by the martians as pets, who would lead flaccid lives as tame pets. Ter's story is from that pet human point of view.

Frontal Obsession? -- Perhaps it's because the film was French (in writing and directing), the art seems preoccupied with female breasts. Rather like Barbarella's space suit (with clear plexi domes in just the right places), Draag female attaire covers from ankle to wrist, except for two conspicuous holes. The Om costumes make a similar effort to leave one of the two exposed. Ah, those French. One can see where their priorities are.

Bottom line? FP is an intriguing sci-fi in many ways. It's animated/drawn instead of live-actors. Granted, the animation is somewhat rudimentary, but the illustrations are very psychedelic-70s. It has the customary ingredients: aliens on other planets, rockets, advanced technology, etc. It has feral humans -- a fairly rare trope. Viewers who speak French (or at least can 'hear' it quickly), can take in FP as it was released. English-only viewers should find a subtitled copy. FP, while not at must-see, is worth some effort to find and view.

1 comment:

Randall Landers said...

I rather enjoyed this film, and I've always found it ironic that education makes the Oms dangerous to the Draag.