La Planète Sauvage: Qui Vivra, Verra

Like something out of a Salvador Dalí painting, La Planète Sauvage will capture one’s imagination from start to finish. Astounding audiences since its Grand Prize award at Cannes in 1973, this animated feature was a collaborative work between France’s René Laloux, director of the film, and the rest of the crew, who were comprised of Chezlosovakians. The film is said to be a social commentary about the Soviet occupation of the now Czech Republic, but also delving into subjects such as the juxtapositions between ignorance and knowledge, the idea of adaptive survival, and the ultimate change from oppression to harmony. Moreover, the peculiar nature of the plot set with animator Roland Topor’s highly unusual imagery and Alain Goraguer’s eerie music help carry the heavy themes from the screen to the mind.

From the get go, one is thrown into the fray of the fantastic world of the Draag as we see a woman running for dear life while clutching a baby in her arms. Within seconds we realize that we are no longer on Earth because in the background and foreground we see what look like malformed trees with huge thorns standing on their roots. The woman climbs a small hill and is repeatedly knocked over by the fingers of a monstrous, blue hand. Shortly thereafter we come to learn that the humans, known as ‘Om’ (surely a wordplay for the French ‘homme’, meaning ‘man’ or ‘mankind’), are but playthings to the Draag, giant creatures who are fairly technological, but more spiritually advanced than humans.

The Draag are keen to techniques of meditation that allow them to interact with their world, its creatures, and even its moon, which they call the ‘fantastic planet’ (the English title of the movie), perhaps something that humans have yet to master.

Our story revolves around a domesticated Om named Terr (yet another play on words for ‘Earth’) and his escape into the world of the ‘savage’, tribal-like Om. Terr takes with him a learning device used by the Draag to the tribe of Om, wherein the ‘Wizard’, a high-ranking member of the group who acts as a sort of spiritual leader, is appalled by such ‘‘evil’’ Draag technology, when, in fact, the use of the device is astoundingly helpful to the Om’s survival. It must be pointed out here that this type of mentality exists even today as religion and ancient customs oft interfere with technological advancement and the progress of knowledge. In addition, the customs of the Om are revealed to Terr (and the audience by extension) as being primitive; during a full moon, so to speak, the Om eat Draag food that makes them glow under the brilliance of the fantastic planet before they pair off to mate. Even the Draag tell us that the Om reproduce frequently.

No doubt, the tribe carries out their primitive rituals as it is vital for the Om’s survival because their former civilization on Earth was almost wiped out. It is essential for the Om to adapt for survival much like the Draag use their meditation to propagate life of other species – live and let live, say. However, there is much animosity and war even between tribes of the Om. This all changes when the precious lives of the Om are put in danger by a mass extinction, ironically enough by the more ‘advanced’ civilization, the Draag.

When the Om face their potential demise, they set aside their differences to band together in order to survive as a species . The Om use the Draag technology to carry out a mission to the fantastic planet. The final confrontation between the Draag and the Om shows us, the audience, how it is entirely possible for people to amass when in the face of a real, common threat in order to ascertain the hope of a future life without oppression. To live peacefully in accordance with the living planet and its inhabitants, regardless of how other-worldly and strange they may be, is an object that should not be as fantastic as the imagery of La Planète Sauvage, but only time will tell.

by Luis Limon

A Trip to the Moon screens with La Planète Sauvage this Saturday
July 23rd, 7:30pm
AxD Gallery / 265 South 10th Street / Philadelphia, PA
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