Fantastic Planet (1973)

“I was just a live plaything who sometimes dared to rebel.”

Fantastic Planet Poster

Synopsis:
A domesticated Om named Terr escapes from his Draag captors and encourages a group of wild Oms to fight against their oppressors.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
In his review of this “curious animated feature, sci-fi for adults” — winner of the Grand Prix at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival — Peary comes across as less than enthusiastic. He complains that the story — which “makes the key point that education is vital to revolution” — is “slight”, that the “quick, vague ending is not satisfying”, and that the “animation is often static… and tends to give [the] film a sluggish pace at those times when the excitement should be building”. He argues that while it’s “worth seeing”, it’s “disappointing in that with only a few changes [it] could have been a really terrific film”. For the most part, I agree with each of Peary’s points above, yet I don’t think he gives the film quite enough credit.

While the storyline is rather simplistic, it packs a terrific punch overall, and is surprisingly horrific for an animated film. From its opening sequence — in which a tiny female Om carrying a newborn baby is mercilessly harassed, then brutally killed by callous Draags — it’s clear that director Rene Laloux and Roland Topper (“who provided the original artwork”) are telling a no-holds-barred allegorical tale of extreme oppression and tyranny. And while Peary’s complaints about the “static” animation are valid to a certain extent, he fails to reveal how truly stunning and original the visuals are throughout the story — this is a film you’ll want to watch again and again, simply to appreciate the wildly imaginative world Laloux and Topper have created. (Indeed, Peary does acknowledge that “best of all are the weird animals that inhabit this savage planet”, though he argues that “there are too few”.)

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Consistently creative animation
    Fantastic Planet Still 1
    Fantastic Planet Still 2
    Fantastic Planet Still 3
    Fantastic Planet Still 4
    Fantastic Planet Still 5

Must See?
Yes. This cult favorite merits multiple viewings for the visuals alone.

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One Response to “Fantastic Planet (1973)”

  1. Must-see – and, yes, is undoubtedly better with repeat viewings.

    First viewing.

    Peary’s critical points are certainly odd, esp. re: how the film was constructed. He seems to not take into consideration that one of two things is entirely possible: a) the technique was what was available to the filmmakers at the time, or b) the technique was intentional. Regardless, his tentative praise is puzzling – this is clearly a very original work, a one-of-a-kind film that ffs do need to see and will likely want to re-visit.

    From what I’ve learned, the film is a response to Soviet Occupation of the Czech Republic. But even though the political intent is specific, it’s not difficult to translate that into larger, more international concerns: some group is always oppressed somewhere in the world. This could be somebody’s conversation at the water cooler with a colleague, about a boss.

    I’m not surprised to hear that this film was often shown in movie theaters on a double-bill with ‘Yellow Submarine’. While watching ‘FP’, the influence of ‘YS’ seemed present (‘YS’ preceded by five years, and one would think animators watch each other’s films). There’s a similar good vs. evil them, but the direct influence of ‘YS’ is very much on the periphery (the more bizarre and hard-to-explain elements of the planet’s environment).

    At 72 minutes, the length is just right. The film trusts the intelligence of its audience, and the latter’s ability to fill in what’s not spelled out. I will admit that, when the film started, I was a bit thrown off – not sure how I would take to the film’s initial approach. But, soon enough, you’re more than likely to find yourself swept away into this very specific world and everything will make sense on its own terms. (The film just gets better as it goes.)

    For me, this is a find – a rewarding, enriching film experience.

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