𝘕𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘮𝘣𝘦𝘳 20, 2021
I seem to have difficulty tracking dialogue on movies due to the background music and extraneous noise associated with the sets. This is compounded by the dialogue and background music often being set at drastically different levels. To get the words without being blown out by the music is a constant battle. After being with my mom I realized I could adapt the same way she does, by using closed caption. When we were scrolling movie apps this last week, I came across one of my favorite movies that I had not seen in quite a while, Fantastic Planet. The info stated this was remastered in 2016 from the original film. When I brought the movie up, I could not get closed caption to work. After several attempts I gave up. When the movie started to play, I found out why. It was in French and had English subtitles.
Fantastic Planet (French: La Planète sauvage, Czech: Divoká planeta, literally “The Wild Planet”) is a 1973 experimental adult animated science fiction film, directed by René Laloux and written by Laloux and Roland Topor, the latter of whom also completed the film’s production design. The film was animated at Jiří Trnka Studio in Prague. The film was an international co-production between companies from France and Czechoslovakia. The film is an allegorical story about humans living on a strange planet dominated by giant humanoid aliens who consider them animals. The film is based on the 1957 novel Oms en série by French writer Stefan Wul. A working title in development was Sur la planète Ygam (On the Planet Ygam), which is where most of the story takes place. The final title (The Fantastic/Savage Planet) is the name of Ygam’s moon. Fantastic Planet was awarded the Grand Prix special jury prize at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival, and in 2016, it was ranked the 36th greatest animated movie ever by Rolling Stone. This no doubt led to the remastered version I watched last week.
Fantastic Planet has generally received positive reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gave the film an approval rating of 91% based on 32 reviews with an average rating of 7.24/10. The site’s critical consensus reads “Fantastic Planet is an animated epic that is by turns surreal and lovely, fantastic and graceful”. The release date and acclaim for the film happened during a time when I was coming of age concerned with the environment and questioning the definition of what humans considered “sentient beings”. The film’s narrative has been considered an allegory on both animal rights and human rights, as well as racism. Sean Axmaker of Turner Classic Movies referred to the film as “nothing if not allegorical”, writing that “it’s not a stretch to see the fight against oppression reflected in the civil rights struggle in the United States, the French in Algeria, apartheid in South Africa, and (when injustice takes a turn to wholesale annihilation of the ‘inferior’ race) the Holocaust itself”.
𝗧𝗵𝗼𝘂𝗴𝗵𝘁𝘀: Melissa has never been big on either animated film or subtitles. She concedes to closed captions because she knows it helps me understand the dialogue and admits it is handy when the characters drop their voices amid the furious action on the screen. I noticed while I watched Fantastic Planet, Melissa spent most of her time playing a game on her phone. At the end of the film Melissa said, “I do not get it. What was that about?” When I explained my understanding of the film’s allegory for the ethical treatment of animals, it still did not make sense to her. Our conversation reminded me that how we present the message is sometimes more important than the message presented. If we want others to listen, hear, and understand the importance, we need to clearly present the message in a way relevant to them. That means we also need to take the time to listen, hear, and understand what they believe to be important. Do the work. Follow the science. Change is coming and it starts with you.