The animated sci-fi fable Fantastic Planet (1973) has been re-imagined with an original live score by Krakatau, a Melbourne based prog-rock/jazz fusion act. It was the first ever co-production between Hear My Eyes, a live score screening production team, and the Melbourne International Film Festival.
My first viewing of Fantastic Planet was at Byron Bay, on a motel television during schoolies week. Needless to say, my revisit to the planet of Ygam cast aside the past fuzziness of that memory, this viewing was a highly captivating experience.
Fantastic Planet tells the story of the human-like Om people, who are subjected under a civilisation of gigantic blue-skinned oppressors called Draags. The Om are kept as illiterate pets, or if they managed to escape – as the protagonist does – form into feral gangs that steal food and scrounge to survive.
The audience’s reception of the live score was fantastic, audible gasps and groans were heard at every comedic or tragic turn of the plot. Not only did Krakatau’s live score enhance the emotional impact of the many tragedies of the Oms, it gave a unique interpretation that built upon the original film. As the Oms search from a safe haven, a Middle Eastern-esque melody on guitar plays, and an element of the Israelites’ wandering comes to mind, an aspect the original picture only touched on now flourishes to great effect.
In several instances, Krakatau completely inverts the mood of a scene. As a terrifying creature attacks the Oms with an anteater-like gelatinous tongue, Krakatua makes an interesting decision to cease playing. The ensuing silence, which was previously filled with an overexcited funk jam, is only interrupted by the death of Om after Om who scream warped synthesizer notes played by James Tom. The creature is eventually killed heroically but instead of a happy tune, Alejandro J. Abapo supplies a darker tone with the tenor saxophone, the discordant soundscape of the Om’s first violent act is an interesting foreshadowing to the violent civil war that will follow.
Not only is Krakatau’s score impressive in effect, they are impressive in their bravery to bring a new interpretation to a film that is more than 40 years old.