On the Comet (1970)

aka Na komete
Article 3910 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-18-2012
Posting Date: 4-28-2012
Directed by Karel Zeman
Featuring Emil Horvath, Magda Vasaryova, Frantisek Flipovsky
Country: Czechoslovakia
What it is: Science fiction comedy

A comet passes close to the Earth, and pulls off a section of North Africa with it when it goes. The people living on that section find their personal and political lives changed by the event.

Frankly, the concept of the movie is one of Jules Verne’s more outrageous and hard-to-swallow ideas. Somehow, that doesn’t bother me when the adaptation is in Karel Zeman’s hands; Zeman works in such a non-realistic mode that he’s a natural choice for such a concept. The visual style he uses here is the style of old postcards, and though there were always touches of comedy in his other movies, this is the one that seems most overtly comic; the story takes satirical aim at imperialism and at inflexible mindsets, and some of the antics of the French army in trying to adjust to the change of conditions are hilarious. As usual, it’s half animated and half real-life, with the two styles juxtaposed in his usual fashion. It’s also one of his most streamlined movies; at only 74 minutes, it doesn’t have time for some of the dull spots that occasionally pop up in his movies. My favorite scene involves an encounter with dinosaurs and its aftermath. This one is definitely recommended, especially if you’re a fan of Zeman.


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