English Title: Fantastic Planet
Original Title: La planète sauvage
Country: France, Czechoslovakia
Genre: Animation, Sci-Fi
Director: René Laloux
Writers: René Laloux, Roland Topor
based on the novel by Stefan Wul
Music: Alain Goraguer
Cinematography: Boris Baromykin, Lubomir Rejthar
Editor: Hélène Arnal, Marta Látalová
French animator René Laloux’s feature-length debut, a France-Czechoslovakia co-production animated at Jiří Trnka Studio in Prague, FANTASTIC PLANET is his pièce-de-résistance, and a seminal exemplar of what the art form can inspire and effect its author’s boundless vision and conceit, especially compared with live-action filmmaking in a time which is much in the thrall of temporal materiality.
Adapted from Stefan Wul’s Sci-Fi novel, the titular planet is actually a moon around the remote planet Ygam, where inhabit giant blue humanoids called Draags, who tames minuscule humans (named “Oms”) as pets, and in the opening scenes, our anthropocentric perception is roundly disrupted when a hapless Om woman is teased to death by a humongous God’s hand, which actually belong to a Draag child, an infant boy left by the dead woman is named Terr by his new master, Tiwa, a young Draag girl, who treats her fragile pet with kid gloves, only at the behest of her parents, a collar is imposed on Terr’s neck. When Tiwa takes her knowledge transmission sessions, Terr meekly rests on her lap, so obliquely also inculcates in the Draags education, and eventually, he successfully runs away with Tiwa’s knowledge transmitting headphone when Tiwa matures in her age and doesn’t heed him as frequently as before.
Terr falls in with a tribe of untamed Oms dwelling in an abandoned Draag park, using the headphone, the tribe also nourishes in the newfound literary, and when a purge of wild Oms occurs, the survivors relocate into a deserted rocket depot, using Draag’s own knowledge, they cobble together two rockets, which land on the satellite moon, where they find out the feet of clay of the almighty Draags an impel them to propound a truce with Oms, the purge is abolished, and a peaceful co-existence is attained.
The film retains its source novel’s sardonic, illuminating bite of giving audience a dose of our own medicine, subjugates humans at the mercy of a much superior race with higher intelligence and towering stature, and its allegory reverberations go all the way from Terr’s enforced servitude to the awakening rebellion, with the key ingredient of knowledge as the deciding factor, although running a succinct 71 minutes, the story is characteristically front-loaded and its pacific if pyrrhic ending merits more details and explication.
Visually, Laloux’s surrealistic creation is utterly kaleidoscopic and avant-garde, each freeze-frame of its cel animation is the fruition of punctilious craftsmanship and fathomless imagination, gelling altogether to fabricate an otherworldly tale with sublime poeticism, and jazz musician Alain Goraguer’s psychedelic-fused accompaniment is a crashing bonanza that engages this viewing journey with an auditory backbone that perfectly tallies with the ongoing spectacle, taking audience’s breath away, and synchronously, promulgating its sage central message with firm conviction.
referential entry: Hayao Miyazaki’s NAUSICAÄ OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND (1984, 7.9/10).