Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Fantastic Planet (1973)

Fantastic Planet (1973)

Director: Rene Laloux

Fantastic Planet (Le Planete Sauvage) has been my favorite animated film since forever, for many reasons, but primarily because it’s an amazing film experience in every sense of the word; it’s not only a visual feast, but also a feast for the mind. If you guys know anything about me, then you know I have a soft spot for Subversive Cinema. These are films that are about ‘the people’ fighting ‘the system’, people fighting the good fight; which is one of the many reasons why I love Fantastic Planet, it’s all about the rebels versus the oppressors. The Draags vs. the Oms, will they ever learn to live in peace?  

On Fantastic Planet we meet two races; on the one hand we have the Draags, which are these gigantic beings with blue skin and red eyes. They are the ruling class on planet Ygam. They are the elite, also known as those in power or the “high class”. Then we have the Oms, which are basically humans, but in comparison to the Draags, the Oms  are minuscule in size. Humans are like little rodents to Draags and in some instances, they function as their pets. Basically Oms are these wild, uneducated creatures that amuse the Draags, but also seem like pests to them. Yet Oms, aren’t complete idiots, they have the capacity to learn, they have potential within them. Which is probably why  the Draags would rather have them completely eradicated from the planet. The Draags fear that the Oms might one day get smart and overtake Planet Ygam. Will the Oms ever rise and rebel? Or will the Draags succeed in erradecating them from the planets surface?

Fantastic Planet comes to us from Rene Laloux, the director behind two other animated gems: Time Masters (1982) and Gandahar (1987). If you end up enjoying Fantastic Planet, I recommend checking out the aforementioned films as well. The best of the bunch is Fantastic Planet, but trust me; Time Masters and Gandahar are also worth the watch. But anyways, Fantastic Planet deals with themes that are familiar to all of Laloux films, the fight versus ‘the system’. Why are the people oppressed? Should they rebel? Also, it addresses classicist issues. Why do some humans consider themselves superior to others? Why must this barrier exist? To the casual viewer, this movie might just seem like a 'trippy' film (which it is) yet if we take a deeper look, we can see that Fantastic Planet is all about the fight to educate the masses, to give freedom to a population that is enslaved both physically and mentally. Interesting how this film was made more than four decades ago yet its themes are more relevant now than ever. People are still being oppressed, there are still governments that step on its people; education is still being taken away from the working class. I mean, really, most of us can’t pay a hundred thousand dollars a year to go to college. And who wants such a huge debt on their backs when they get out of college? Truth of the matter is that education is available only to those who can pay it, the high class, the rich, the rest can go to community college or get a job at McDonalds, working for the man, which is the way the man likes it. But what happens when the masses wake up?

Fantastic Planet is all about knowledge, education and the importance of acquiring it in order to thrive in the world. You see, the Oms in this film are born ignorant, wild. The ones with the education and the knowledge are the all powerful Draggs who use these rings they place on their heads to educate themselves. The interesting part of this film comes when one of the Oms called ‘Terr’ steals one of the knowledge rings from the Draggs and begins to educate himself. Soon he grows up into a knowledgeable young man, and starts educating the rest of the Oms who live in the wild. He soon begins to organize a revolution. This is the Draags biggest fear, that the Oms will organize, grow smart and revolt; which is basically the same fear that governments of the world have of their people. That they might one day grow a brain, wise up and realize that they've been taken for fools. Education in the world could be made more accessible, more affordable and it should be so much better than what it is. Young people should not be taken for granted, they should be taught to believe that they have the ability to achieve anything they want, because they can. Because anything we can think of can be achieved. But no, instead, books are banned, schools are closed, tuition prices are raised to prohibitive prices and funds for education are either stolen or diverted, or both. Educating ourselves is turned into an uphill battle. I speak of my country, but I know this holds true for other parts of the world as well.

This is why college students revolt and fight back, and that is why police officers are brought in to pacify them, because they are wising up, they are growing a brain, they know things shouldn't be this way. So there lies the conflict, and this is primarily what Fantastic Planet is all about. It goes through all the processes and situations that a rebel cause will go through and face. It demonstrates that feeling of being stepped on by those in power. This might make this movie sound boring to some of you out there, but trust me it is not. Rene Laloux and graphic designer/writer Roland Topor make sure that this film is never boring, not for a second. The planet of Ygam is an amazing place to visit. It is populated with the craziest looking creatures, the most outlandish landscapes, trust me you won’t want to take your eyes off the screen. Yes, this film can be categorized under the ‘trippy/visual films’ banner, it is after all a visual wonder. The artistry and the designs involved in this production warrant a watch, trust me, you won’t be disappointed. Fantastic Planet is an incredibly unique experience;  you haven’t seen anything like it. It still remains, after all these years, my favorite animated film of all time.  Now go watch it!

Rating: 5 out of 5    



SFF said...

I mean seriously- favorite animated film. This I really must correct soon.

I've always been interested in it and kind of adored it from afar.

I really have to check it out. It has been something I've been meaning to rectify.

Great and unexpected coverage as always dude man.

Franco Macabro said...

Give it a go, you won't be dissapointed, it's a real experience, a trip.

Roman J. Martel said...

I've seen this film a couple times. Once when I was pretty young, and it actually freaked me out. The visuals were so bizarre and the movie got surprisingly violent. Something my 80s cartoon raised eyes couldn't handle.

About ten years later I revisited the film (after seeing some anime but his point) and really enjoyed it. The visuals are so creative, the message is powerful and it really just delivers a punch that only animation can really craft and deliver.

I've been looking for a good version of this film on DVD for a while, and that has been the major hold up in me obtaining it. A friend of mine had it, but said the print was pretty bad. Thanks for reminding me about this fine film. Need to continue the search for it.

And yeah, I've seen "Light Years" (what they renamed "Gandahar" for its North America release) as well, and that was a hell of a movie too.

Franco Macabro said...

At the end of the review I included a link for the Fantastic Planet dvd which is available through Amazon, it's a good version of it (its the version I saw and its great) but its price is high, I guess it depends how much you want it.

Usually, strongly subversive films like this one are priced very high and become hard to come by, not at all different from 1984, yet another film you wont find for under 25 bucks, which if you ask me is a high price for a dvd, specially in todays Blueray world.

llj said...

It's definitely my favorite french animated film of all time. Love the soundtrack, too.

Sucks that there is no blu-ray for this in North America. Of course, if you have a region free BD player you can pick up the UK Masters of Cinema version.

Franco Macabro said...

Yeah, that Masters of Cinema edition looks rad! I hope somebody wises up and puts this out on blue ray in the U.S.


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