Polygon

Tagged: Film

Russian animated short film (1977). Original title Poligon; vt Proving Ground; vt Firing Range. Soyuzmultfilm. Directed by Anatoly Petrov. Written by Sever Gansovsky. Voice cast includes Alexander Beliavsky, Anatoly Kuznetsov, S Martynov, Oleg Mokshantsev and Vsevolod Yakut. Ten minutes. Colour.

Polygon is based on Gansovsky's short story "Poligon" (1966 Vokrug sveta #9; trans Matthew J O'Connell as "The Proving Ground" in View from Another Shore, anth 1973, ed Franz Rottensteiner; trans Roger DeGaris as "Testing Grounds" in World's Spring, anth 1981, ed Vladimir Gakov), upon which Walter M Miller's "I Made You" (March 1954 Astounding) seems to have been an influence.

On an African island a Scientist exhibits his new invention to senior military officials – a mind-reading tank (see Psionics; Telepathy; Weapons). He explains that knowing its opponent's intentions allows it to evade their assaults; the generals are more interested in its attack capabilities, and he adds that it responds to fear. They then break for lunch, with a general observing, "If we'd had machines like that before, we'd still have our colonies." (see Imperialism). The scientist responds that his son died in those colonial Wars. After accepting the others' condolences he gets up and leaves, telling them, "Try not to think of danger: the machine can read your thoughts." They fail and are killed one by one; the scientist, who thought grief had removed fear from him, also dies, protesting, "I created you." The final scene has African children playing on the immobile, now half-buried tank.

This is a short, effective work: anti-war and anti-imperialist. The generals resemble Yul Brynner, Jean Gabin, Paul Newman and Ringo Starr, presumably to reference Russia, France, the United States and Great Britain. The impractical aspects – such as the tank only attacking those who are scared of it – might be excused by the scientist never intending it to be used in battle. The animation technique used, called photographica, is of interest as it gives an odd CGI-like effect, yet predates that method. The film was one of the official selections of the 1979 Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen (International Short Film Festival Oberhausen). [SP]

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