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  Fantastic Planet Rise Up!
Year: 1973
Director: René Laloux
Stars: Jennifer Drake, Sylvie Lenoir, Jean Topart, Jean Valmont
Genre: Animated, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: A young, human mother clasps her baby to her and flees through a forest; emerging from the vegetation she attempts to run up a hill, but a huge blue hand appears from the sky and knocks her back down. She tries again, but once more the hand flicks her away with one finger. She drops her baby and is picked up by the hand, but it lets her go and she falls to the ground, dying there from the impact. The hand belongs to a Draag child, one of the ruling race of giants on this planet who only tolerate the tiny, human Oms as pets, otherwise they're simply vermin to them. The children run away when they see an adult approaching with his daughter, Tiwa, who spots the baby and pleads with her father to let her keep him, not knowing the significance of taking the infant in...

It's a good thing that a Draag week is the equivalent of a year for the Oms, or this film would "drag" on for ages before it reached the point. Based on the book Oms en Serie by Stefan Wul, Fantastic Planet, aka La Planète Sauvage, was adapted by director René Laloux and Roland Topor, who designed the distinctive graphics. These two Frenchmen opted to go to Czechoslovakia to make their animated opus, mainly for budgetary motives, but this gives the story a resonance when you consider this was a country under strict Communist rule at the time and the production had to move back to Paris for political reasons. Considering its themes of war, repression and intolerance, it's a surprisingly leisurely paced film, where a little more urgency in the telling would have been to its overall benefit.

As it is, Laloux and Topor fall back on a dreamlike atmosphere that made it popular with those in the counterculture of the time. It's the traditional story of the slave (or pet in this case) seeing the injustice of his situation and rising up to overthrow his masters, and if he doesn't exactly overthrow them, he certainly makes them see the error of their ways. The baby is named Terr by Tiwa, and she treats him like a live doll, dressing him up and the like, but she gets so emotionally close to him that she inadvertently gives him an education. The Draags learn through a head band that implants information directly into their brains, and Terr picks this up as he sits with Tiwa while she takes all this in. So, when the time comes for the now adult Terr to escape, he drags the headband with him.

The culture of the Draags has obviously been thought through pretty thoroughly, and we see them spending a lot of time meditating where they psychically transform their minds into coloured, floating bubbles But where do these bubbles go and what is their purpose? The Draags think of themselves as cultured and humane, yet they're not as decent as they think they are as evinced by their treatment of the Oms, who they refuse to regard as intelligent. When Terr meets up with a group of them who have returned to the wild to survive, they have their own superstitions which Terr has to improve upon, leading them to hunt the beasts that hunt them, and fight back against the extermination programme the Draags have implemented. The message of the need for mutual respect is clear, yet despite all the mayhem, Fantastic Planet has a subdued air, rather too muted for a fable. It is a treat to look at, however, resembling the animated cover of a prog rock concept album. Music by Alain Goraguer.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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