“Patema Inverted” is a must-watch for Japanese animation fans who look for an immersion into culture and impressive animation, and science fiction fans who like to think about the possibilities of gravitational fantasy.
It is an animated film that deeply explores philosophical, theological and even political ideas, all while telling a story centered around relationships and secrets with a mind-bending science-fiction twist.
The film, directed and written by Yasuhiro Yoshiura, was shown at the Wang Center on Sept. 6. It drew in a moderately full house with a diverse audience of students and community members, both young and old.
The movie’s prelude involves an accident that distorts the gravity of the planet and splits the human population. The movie centers around a young girl named Patema and a young boy named Age. Patema, whose curiosity to explore out of the boundaries of her underground steampunk-inspired world is piqued by the disappearance of her father figure Lagos, accidentally discovers Age and his world, which has a gravitational pull opposite of hers.
The world that Age lives in, Aiga, has an environment that looks like Earth’s. The government of Aiga, however, seems yanked out from an Orwellian dystopia with cameras on every corner of society. Everybody but Age wears the same clothes; Age’s rebellious nature is noted by the visual contrast and by the society’s computers, whose statistics show him as a rebellious student due to the death of his father, an inventor that attempted to go to the sky to discover what those in power don’t want him to know.
Our villain, Izamura, is not necessarily unique. He is a zealot who uses the accident that precedes the movie to propagandize the “inverted” (those who possess the opposing gravitational pull) as sinners that God has punished with his wrath. The film constantly uses shadows on Izamura’s face; combined with a crazed look that gives a fanaticism to his expressions, he is presented as a large scale threat to our heroes.
The film uses the gravitational difference between Patema and Age to shift the camera’s perspective upside down, creating different shots and accentuating perspectives as the main theme; these shifts also create some comedic moments, as Age and Patema have to constantly hold together to keep them from floating into the sky like a balloon. The score of the film, by Michiru Ōshima, magnifies the landscape shots of the film while also creating a dramatic movement to the action scenes.
Stony Brook University physics graduate student, Olof Salberger was invited to the film by his friends. He went not just with the intent of enjoying the film; he also brought along a notebook. Salberger attempted to understand the physics of the film’s planets, their different gravitational pulls, alternate locations and worlds. He drew a diagram of the world of “Patema Inverted” before scrapping it after the last few minutes destroyed his original perception of their planet. Salberger drew a second diagram that he felt better represented their world. “It reminded me a lot of Miyazaki movies,” Salberger said, comparing the art style to the popular Japanese animation studio, Studio Ghibli. The villain of “Patema Inverted” reminded Salberger of the villain Judge Claude Frollo from the Disney film “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” whose religious motivation combined with his look drew an uncanny resemblance between the two.
The movie does a great job at balancing the realism of the characters’ relationships with the themes of science fiction and dystopian fiction. I recommend this movie to anybody looking for a compelling story to entertain your evening, and especially to those who watch films to discover deeper meanings about philosophy, theology and relationships.