Fantastic World by René Laloux
Fantastic World is an animated science-fiction movie created in 1973 by René Laloux, which destroys the stereotypical vision of animation as a product aimed at a younger audience.
The distant planet Ygam is inhabited by a highly advanced civilization of blue-skinned Draags. From a land that was destroyed long ago, they bring back a human race called Om, which is a play on words because, in French, man is homme, which sounds remarkably similar. People there are treated as pets, deprived of choices and the ability to decide their own fate. In the first scene, we see a human woman running away with her small child in her arms. The character is terrified and tries to how to hide from the big blue hands of Draag children who want to grab her to continue playing.
Although we have not seen the Draags in their full glory yet, we can already feel how much of an advantage they are over the human species. They are much larger, as we learn later in the film, they live longer than the average human and their ability to create new, complex technology is highly developed. A woman accidentally dies after being thrown on a rock by one of the Draag children, which ends with her saying that they cannot play with her anymore. The baby is taken in by the blue-skinned girl Tiwa and quickly becomes her favourite.
At the beginning of the film, we begin to slowly learn about the Draag species. We learn that an important element in their lives is meditation, which is interrupted by the main character – a young boy whose mother died earlier – Terr. This is just the beginning of the study of a species that is different from us, so even though we see some activity, we are not yet able to fully comprehend it.
Terr, when he is grown up enough to escape, abandons his mistress and steals from her the headband that the Draags use to learn. During his journey, he meets more representatives of his species and shares his acquired knowledge with them. From now on, we can witness how Oms struggle to survive. They are threatened not only by animals but also by the Draags who carry out, let’s call it a ‘de-omnisation’, which is a pogrom of wild people. A flight to the Wild Planet – a natural satellite orbiting Ygam – begins to be synonymous of Oms freedom and escape from the tormentor.
Fantastic Planet is a French-Czech production of Rene Laloux – a French animator, screenwriter and film director. The film is an adaptation of the novel Oms en series by Stefan Wul. The script and animation are the creative vision of Roland Topor – artists with a passion for surrealism and grotesque, which are often visible in this film.
The French decided to team up with the Czechs to help create the animation for the film. The Prague animators were chosen for their much more developed technique of “bringing images to life”. Also, the technique used in this work is quite specific and animation studios in Paris would have a problem with it. It involves cutting out freehand drawings and trying to set them in motion. The creative process started already in 1969, but the Czechs at that time were in a difficult political situation, which in the end became a big source of inspiration for them. Because of this situation, the process of creating the animation was much longer and the final result could be seen only after 5 years from the beginning of work on it.
The plot of the Fantastic Planet is a kind of parable that can be interpreted in your own way. Certainly, the production was strongly influenced by the stigma of the twentieth century, the history of Czechoslovakia and the whole of Europe, which is why the film criticizes the contemporary totalitarian systems. An important element is also the topic of the humiliated and repressed minority. Opposition to hostile rule and discrimination against their system are tools Oms uses to obtain, or maybe regain, their basic rights. Thanks to these actions, in the end we witness the recognition of their rights and the peaceful resolution of the conflict.
However, a big limitation for the artists turned out to be the small budget allocated to the production. The main loses are the background, which, although it presents interesting images, seems too simple, even empty and not very dynamic animation. The ending as well is not perfect because the resolution of the dispute was very summarized and simplified. But to sum up, the whole thing, even though the artists had a low budget they did a great job.
In my opinion, this is definitely a movie worth watching. The seemingly strange and disturbing animation hides a valuable and revealing message about the laws that govern the world. However, this is not a film for everyone. The aforementioned dash and the way this world is depicted may slightly scare off some viewers. However, it’s worth getting out of your comfort zone sometimes and visiting the Fantastic Planet. Maybe this way we can learn something new about ourselves? Maybe we will learn hitherto unknown truths about human destiny? Or are we just going to have fun? Either way, I am sure that the time spent watching this movie will not be wasted and will keep coming back to us in moments of reflection on the world around us.