Gandahar

Tagged: Film

French/Korean animated film (1987; vt The Light Years). SEK Animation Studio. Based on the novel Les Hommes-machines contre Gandahar (1969) by Jean-Pierre Andrevon. Directed and written by René Laloux. Voice cast includes Pierre-Marie Escourrou and Georges Wilson. 83 minutes. Colour.

The land of Jaspar on the planet Gandahar is a paradise, overlooked by a City in the form of a giant statue; here blue-skinned humans live in harmony with Alien nature, preferring "natural order to technical solutions", though they use Genetically Engineered animals. When settlements are attacked and their people abducted, the ruling Council of Women (see Feminism) sends Sylvain (Escourrou) to investigate. He quickly gets into trouble but is rescued by Mutant humans, the Deformed, a result of experimentation undertaken long ago by Jaspar – there is much body Horror, with extra or absent heads and limbs, often wrongly positioned.

The Deformed mention a prophecy that "in a thousand years Gandahar was destroyed and all its people killed; a thousand years ago Gandahar will be saved and what can't be avoided will be". Sylvain is captured by metal men (a form of Cyborg): he fortuitously escapes, watching as other prisoners are taken through a glowing gate; later, a metal-men rally occurs, announcing that Decadent Gandahar will be destroyed. Their leader is a giant brain, created long ago by the Jasparians and, like the Deformed, abandoned. Sylvian meets the brain, called Metamorphis (Wilson), but learns the metal men come from the future through a Time Gate, obedient to Metamorphis' older self; the abductees are used to replace the dying cells it can no longer regrow. Current Metamorphis loathes what it becomes, so arranges for Sylvian to hibernate for a thousand years and kill its future self. Meanwhile, Jaspar is invaded, whereupon the city's head detaches and flies off.

When Sylvian wakes in the future he finds the Deformed are also there: they were captured, but rejected. Again they aid him, taking him to a metal city: here Metamorphis, now senile, does not remember Sylvian. With the help of the Deformed (who do most of the actual work), Metamorphis is killed; everyone flees to the present via the time gate and travel to Jaspar's statue: as they arrive, its head returns.

The film's characterization is flat, with Sylvian being an insipid protagonist; the plotting of the first half is lethargic, though it does improve towards the end. The worldbuilding has some interest: mention is made of Earth, so it might be inferred the colonists travelled from there in the statue (see Spaceships), eventually rejecting their scientific research (much of it clearly dubious) for a pastoral lifestyle, but not tidying up their mess. The Deformed are dark-skinned, possibly intended as a metaphor for colonialism (see Imperialism). An absurdity is the breast count: when not topless, women's fashion favours the boob window (see Fan Service). Though its anti-fascist sentiments (see Politics) are worthy and there are many nice touches, overall the film is a little dull.

An English language version, called The Light Years (1988) begins with an Isaac Asimov quote, and the opening credits grandly announce "Isaac Asimov presents ...". However, his participation was limited to adapting an English translation of the French screenplay. There were also some prudish edits. This was René Laloux's third film, after La Planète Sauvage (1973; vt Fantastic Planet) and Les Maîtres du temps (1982; vt Time Masters). [SP]

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