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Lesson, The

Entry updated 28 February 2022. Tagged: Film.

Armenia animated film (1987). Armenfilm. Directed and written by Robert Sahakyants. 17 minutes. Colour.

The first passenger-carrying starship (see Spaceships) lands on a planet whose flora and fauna mostly resemble portmanteaus of Earth species (see Life on Other Worlds). The trigger-happy tourists begin hunting them, only to find the dead Alien's cellular structure imprints itself onto their own, whereupon they turn into their victims (see Shapeshifting). The exception is the sole female tourist, who has been communing with the planet; but on realizing what is happening, she shoots a graceful bird in the hope of transforming into it ... nothing happens to her; however, the bird reverts to the tourist who had shot it earlier. So when the pair discover their captain – also the woman's lover – is now a toad they both fire at it, intending to restore him; but their shots tear it into seven pieces, with each part becoming a miniature captain. To the sound of John Lennon's "Imagine", the survivors flee to their ship and depart, save for one tiny captain who is stranded, last seen sitting on a gun in the pose of Rodin's The Thinker.

The reverted tourists retain some of the behaviour and physicality of the animals they briefly were. The command centre for the mission is a vast spaceship resembling an aircraft carrier, whose staff are easily distracted – the society seems decadent (it is possible that the film voices concern over the westernizing effects of Glasnost). Unusually for a communist-era Soviet work, there is a surprising amount of Fan Service involving the female tourist: including innuendo, when – in a scene that presumably nods to the Greek tale of Leda and the Swan (see Mythology) – she rubs a swan's phallic neck (see Sex). Satirical, with themes of empathy and environmentalism, using animation that mixes monochrome (the humans and their technology) and colour (the planet and its wildlife), this a notable work – though the use of the Lennon song is somewhat heavy-handed. [SP]


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