Cult Film Friday: ‘Fantastic Planet’ A Trippy Feast for your Eyeballs

Preparing for finals has become increasingly more difficult, so I’m watching copious amounts of animated sci-fi to manage the stress :) I hope my professors don’t know about this blog…

Week 3

Yesterday evening I started to research animated cinema for a different post when I came across a very eerie image (their bodies do appear to be inhaling and exhaling right? I can’t be sure all the caffeine and lack of sleep hasn’t permanently damaged my cognitive abilities).

Anyway, after a quick trip to the Google homepage masterfully executed Internet search, I learned that this bizarre gif  is from a French film called La Planète Sauvage (Fantastic Planet), adapted from Stefan Wul’s novel Oms en Série. The late director René Laloux  and writer/ illustrator Roland Topor utilized a unique form of animation that consisted of cutting out images from textured materials and then sequentially photographing them with a cine camera. Cutout animation produces a very surreal effect; this technique was also used by Terry Gilliam to create Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Stop-motion animation, or photographing inanimate objects in stages, is very common in today’s animated cinema.  Popular films, such as Coraline, A Nightmare Before Christmas, and James and the Giant Peach underwent a similar process; however animators used puppetry, rather than cutouts, to create a more seamless effect.

Okay, blah blah blah – perhaps you don’t find that the slightest bit interesting, but at the time I’m sure this was some pretty neoteric wizadry. The premise of Fantastic Planet is not a substantial departure from the standard sci-fi formula: Set in a futuristic world called Ygam, a blue-bodied, web-eared alien race, known as the Draags, dominate and enslave the physically and mentally inferior human “Om” species.

Draags sustain their elevated consciousness through constant meditation. In fact, they perpetuate the species sort of indirectly.  Instead of procreating through copulation (sorry if that ruins this for anybody), they reach a deep meditative state that allows for an out of body experience, and the individual conscious travels via bubble to a distant planet of headless statues. Then they like, dance or something weird…it’s a strange concept but I thought these cogitative scenes were some of the more fascinating visuals.

The bulk of the film centers around an orphaned Om whose mother is killed by adolescent Draags (stop thinking about RuPaul). When Master Sinh and his daughter Tiva happen upon the baby, the little girl takes the Om home and names him Terr (like the French word Terre, meaning Earth). Is the metaphor obvious enough? He cannot escape domestication; if Terr tries, Tiva can retrieve him using a bracelet that is synced to a collar around his neck. The genetic makeup of humans allow them to physically develop much faster than the Draags, and not before long Terr matures. But despite his desire to escape into the wild where the undomesticated “savage” Oms live, his constant proximity to Tiva – who is always studying through her “infos” – allows him to develop reading skills and historical knowledge of the Draag society.

Although Draags have the benefit of literacy, superior technology and elevated consciousness, they feel threatened by the Oms’ ability to reproduce at much faster rates. Ultimately Terr does manage to escape.  Equipped with the knowledge of this hostile civilization, he helps a colony of barbaric Oms to start some shit, giving the Draags further reason to exterminate their race.

If you’re into blue aliens, PG-13 boob shots, weird creatures and the like, give it a try…I left out a lot of really cool parts (mostly because I’m horrible at summarizing).

My only real complaint is that I found the dialogue to be really simplistic and a bit slow at times, but the imaginative creatures definitely held my interest. Surreal visuals intrigue me immensely, so I also took a look at René Laloux’s other popular film “Gandahar.” Perhaps I’ll write about that some other time. Oh and by the way, both films can be found on YouTube. Cheers!


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