Fantastic Planet (1973)

Fantastic Planet (1973)

Movie Details

Movie: Fantastic Planet (1973)
Release date: 6 December 1973 (France)
Director: René Laloux
Stars: Barry Bostwick, Jennifer Drake, Eric Baugin
Languages: French, Czech
Cast: Eric Baugin, Jennifer Drake, Michèle Chahan, Sylvie Lenoir, MORE
Distributed by: Argos Films
Genres: Animation, Sci-Fi
IMDb: 7.7/10
Adapted from: Oms en série
Runtime: 1 hour 12 minutes


Fantastic Planet (1973)


Visionary, fresh, unique. A science fiction masterpiece. When was the last time you saw an original science fiction movie? But one that is truly unique, both in form and content?

Given the available budgets and possibilities, virtually anything can be adapted into a film. You don’t have to create new worlds from scratch – you just need to reach for a pile of unused fantasy literature. And damn it, there’s no shortage of it. Meanwhile, let’s take a look at the upcoming premieres of films from the broadly understood science fiction genre.

If we ignore franchises, sequels, spin-offs, reboots, remakes, etc. – how many titles will remain? Proven and known topics, financially safe solutions, offering undoubtedly high-budget entertainment, but not necessarily the highest quality. Subsequent issues added to popular titles translate into richer producer accounts, and fans’ shelves groan under the weight of their record collections. This fantasy is becoming less and less fantastic.

Fortunately, there is an antidote in the form of animation. This requires lower costs and allows creators to be independent from large studios. Moreover, the techniques of creating moving images can themselves be a work of art that will go down in the film canon and go down in history. When you reach for it, you can find amazingly up-to-date, sophisticated, and at the same time addictive productions. A great example is Fantastic Planet (directed by René Laloux), awarded a Special Prize at Cannes in 1973.

Visionary. Freshness. Weirdness. Yet the premiere of the film took place in 1973, i.e. over forty years ago! Since then, the broadly understood science fiction genre has developed incredibly: Star Wars, the Alien series, Terminators, etc. have been created. And yet, despite the passage of time, the French-Czechoslovak animation about blue aliens remains incredibly original and innovative. This is thanks to the creators – Renée Laloux and Roland Topor.

The former developed his artistic skills while working in the French psychiatric hospital in Cour-Cheverny, where one of the doctors organized a puppet theater as part of his therapy. The second creator is a versatile artist-writer, illustrator, actor, and musician. Both men adapted the fantasy novel Oms en série written in the 1950s by Stefan Wul, a dentist by profession and a writer by passion. Thanks to the creativity of the LalouxTopor duo, The Wild Planet took the form of a classic two-dimensional animation based on Topor’s colorful works. A world filled with strange creatures and techno-organic inventions has emerged – the stage for a science fiction cartoon drama.

PROLOGUE of the movie Fantastic Planet: A young, half-naked woman with a child in her arms runs with obvious fear through something resembling a forest. He’s running away from something, looking back. She reaches the hill she wants to climb, but a hand appears in her way. A huge blue hand that, with a light movement, as if casually, knocks the girl over. She gets up and stubbornly tries to get through, but her attempts end in failure. With a snap of its fingers, a powerful limb throws back a tiny figure hugging a child. The sadistic fun continues for a while, and its ending is predictable – the woman is caught in blue fingers and dropped from a height, and dies. A helpless baby crawls next to her.

This dramatic introduction to the film Fantastic Planet illustrates the mutual relations between the inhabitants of the planet Ygam: the dominant, developed race of powerful Draags and the tiny Oms, limited to the role of living toys. Humans are remnants that are exterminated from time to time to prevent them from multiplying too quickly. Blue creatures see neither benefit nor threat in small creatures – however, they are often present in Draag homes as mascots.

This is the fate of an orphaned child whose mother dies while “playing”. Tiwa, a draagan teenager, finds Om alone. Concerned about the creature’s fate, she asks her father – the prime minister of the Draag community – for permission to adopt the little creature. Thus, the human child, baptized Terr, becomes the girl’s favorite mascot. An enslaved person learns about the world from the perspective of a slave subject to the whims of a higher race. Every day he is moved, positioned, dressed up, and forced to do acrobatics, and the collar he wears prevents him from resisting.

For a teenager from a good home, Tiwa studies a lot – and she does it thanks to headphones that transmit sounds and images directly to her brain. It turns out that Terr is also sensitive to these signals and decides to study with the girl. In this way, he begins to understand the language and alphabet of the Draags, and learns their customs (e.g. regular meditation, which allows blue beings to travel in the astral body).

Over time, Tiwa grows up and finds other things to do, giving up toys and education. Abandoned, Om decides to escape from his captivity but takes his mistress’s scientific assistance with him to learn more. Although Terra manages to escape, he doesn’t really know where to go, and he’s carrying huge, heavy headphones with him. Wandering through a foreign land, he finds himself in an abandoned park inhabited by the Wild Om tribe. His brethren turn out to be a collection of slow, primitive ignorance, and he himself arouses suspicion with his knowledge. Over time, however, Terr gains the ear and educates his brethren, which causes their culture to develop.

Savage Planet is not a light film. The depressing, overwhelming prologue and the first half of the show are a bleak vision of the world. Man is here an inconspicuous, pathetic creature, a small toy in the hand of a big child. The director moves smoothly between threads, and the relatively short (72 minutes) animation is filled with information. Leloux creates Omoh as a human equivalent in the presented world, but in the relationship with the exotic race of Draags, the viewer does not always find himself on the side of the smaller and disadvantaged.

A human dies at the hands of a blue alien as easily as if a fly were killed by a human. In a morally pure and easy way. After all, it’s just a little pest. Leloux’s film allows you to explore the point of view of both the perpetrator and the victim. Moreover, Terr is a Promethean figure (he passes on the knowledge stolen from higher beings to his brothers) and also someone like Spartacus (after being released, he leads the Wild Oms to rebel against the master race).

These are not the only elements that can be read symbolically. In one of the key moments of Fantastic Planet, there is a periodic extermination of the Oms. The association with the Holocaust is right here, and after the premiere of the film, Czechoslovak society saw an allusion to the Prague Spring. However, all these – mostly depressing – scenes are watched with almost hypnotic attention. This is due to the exotic appearance of the locations and creatures, transferred from Wul’s book to Topor’s drawings.

The blue-skinned Draags with bulging red eyes are both disturbing and intriguing. Both the vegetation and the machinery present in the film look and function in a mysterious, non-obvious way. Like a specific combination of magic and engineering. The whole thing has a slightly comic book style, and each frame from this production looks great (after all, it is a hand-drawn graphic by Topor).

The music and sound design of The Fantastic Planet deserves a separate paragraph. The work done by French jazzman Alain Goraguer is amazing. Hypnotic, cyclically looping melodies become embedded in the brain. Psychedelic guitar and keyboard sounds, supported by synthesizers, create compositions that remain in memory long after the viewing. It was the soundtrack from the film Leloux that inspired the Airband when working on the phenomenal music for Sofia Coppola’s The Curses of Innocence. The songs by Goraguer (who once collaborated with e.g. Gainsbourg) work great as an independent entity, they constitute an atmospheric and disturbing album lasting over an hour.

Wild Planet is the cinema debut of René Laloux. An extraordinary debut not only for formal reasons and because of the message. The originality of this production must have made a great impression in the year of its premiere. Due to its timeless themes and ageless form, it still influences viewers today. This is a work that was created in interesting times.

Suffice it to mention the Cannes Festival, where the film received a Special Award. In 1973, the competition included productions that are now considered classics in their genres – Schatzberg’s The Scarecrow, Ferri’s The Big Joke, and the controversial Jodorowsky with his The Holy Mountain. Then the jury award went to Wojciech Jerzy Has for Sanatorium pod Klepsydrą. Compared to the above-mentioned films, the animation about Draagas and Omas is almost niche. However, The Wild Planet, thanks to the creators’ ingenuity, beautiful execution, and the power of its message, is an outstanding, wise, and still relevant work today. Or maybe especially today.

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