Today I watched René Laloux’s Fantastic Planet (1973)
Fantastic Planet is a surreal science fiction animation that takes place on the alien world of Ygam where the native Draags have enslave humans, who they call Oms, to act as pets. The Oms have no memory of their human history and are reduced to a savage state. One such Om pet is named Terr who is the pet of Tiva, the daughter of a very important Draag official. The Draag’s teach their children through the use of a special headset that transmits data directly to the brain, during these sessions Terr discovers that he can also learn from the headset. Eventually Tiva grows to old to care about Terr and her parents don’t want her to use her headset around Terr anymore. Fearing for the loss of these valuable lessons and frustrated with his captivity, Terr steals the headset and escapes into the wilderness. There he meets the savage Oms who live a caveman like existence and who immediately distrust Terr because of his strange knowledge. He manages to prove himself by reading the labels on traps and storage containers, allowing for more efficient and safer resource collection. It is only a matter of time though before the Draags begin De-Oming the are, can the Oms fight back and create a world for themselves? or are the two races doomed to fight each other to mutual extinction?
Of René Laloux’s three full length features (Time Masters and Gandahar being the other two) this one is easily the most well known, recognizable, and in my opinion artistically successful. It’s themes of speciesism are obvious but cushioned with the unbelievable imagery. The surreal elements of the setting are not just intriguingly alien here, they are an important tool for the themes to be delivered. While the main theme is apparent, the exploration of alien society and strange new modes of social organization presents plenty of social commentary; as the conflict between Oms and Draags escalates it becomes more reminiscent to the mutually assured destruction of the Cold War.
This is such a fantastical vision, unlike any other; the imagery is so strange and truly alien. The imagination on display is apparent in every frame and it helps keep the strongly worded themes from completely beating you over the head. Even if you do not agree with the perspective of this movie, it can be enjoyed as an extremely different vision of the future. On the most simple level, the story is told through such extraordinary visuals that one can’t help but be enthralled.
There is nothing else like Fantastic Planet out there, a beautiful expression of the truly alien containing deeply considered social satire. I can’t go on about how crazy and amazing the visuals of this movie are and they are more than just pretty pictures, they are the foundation for everything this movie has to say and show us. The imagery worms its way into the brain and instead of simply being memorable, seeks to excite the mind and inspire greater thought. Perhaps the over used term of mind blowing would be apt to describe the creativity, it is above and beyond. 5/5