Monday, April 14, 2008

Planet of the Apes

Planet of the Apes; Science-fiction grotesque, USA, 1968; D: Franklin J. Schaffner, S: Charlton Heston, Kim Hunter, Roddy McDowall, Maurice Evans, Linda Harrison

Astronauts Taylor, Dodge and Landon are traveling in a spaceship in a speed almost as fast as the speed of light. In the year 3978, their spaceship crashes on an unknown planet and sinks in a lake. The Astronauts save themselves but quickly discover that intelligent apes are ruling the planet, while the humans are mute and dumb. Dodge and Landon fall through while Taylor gets captured and put in a cage - inconveniently becoming mute due to a wound on his neck. When he finally recovers and speaks, that causes a surprise from the apes who consider humans an inferior race: Dr. Zira and Galen are on his side, while the religious primate Zaius considers him a blasphemy. Taylor runs away and stumbles upon the Statue of Liberty, figuring he is actually on Earth.

At the end of 1960's, various polemics interlaced themselves: the Vietnam war, nuclear armament, racial discrimination, the clash of the theories of Creationism and Evolution, religious fundamentalism and human arrogance. And "Planet of the Apes", an adaptation of Pierre Boulle's novel, combined them all into one - into a spectacular satire on human ego. Unusual and allegorical story is presented like a grotesque that doesn't know for any limits and thus puts the whole human centered order of the world upside down (scenes in which the intelligent apes pose in front of their pray, murdered humans they hunted down; all of the humans are mute and stupid; the speech of the religious orangutan Zaius who talks about how "God created apes on his image" and "how inferior humans don't have a soul"), while the Oscar winning make up just broadens the radical ideas, even though some elements seem slightly degrading, pretentious and forced. Actually, people in love with the human perfection shouldn't even look at it. Some possibilities remained unused, but the brilliant ending with the Statue of Liberty serves as an indictment on society and sends a clear message: appearance and race are not important. Spirit is.


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