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White Plastic Sky (Műanyag Ég-bolt)

Retiring at 50 takes on a new meaning in this Hungarian rotoscope animation set in a very bizarre future - from the 41st Turin Film Festival

In 2123, Earth is a scorched wasteland without any natural flora nor fauna (imagine what it was like this summer, but prolonged forever). Humanity is now concentrated in bubbles of protective plastic domes such as Hologram Park, or, as it’s known today, Budapest. In Hologram Park, life seems pretty good. Homes run like the most elite of houses run today, people enjoy their work, everyone has a driverless car and fancy restaurants are a com-mon evening out (perhaps, too common).

There does seem to be one slight snag, an existential crimp in one’s day of this future 100 years from now: everyone is only allowed to live until half a century. At 50, the human body in this world becomes government property. Being government property, a seed is planted into the heart of the subject to be turned into a tree in special laboratories. One such laboratory is the Plantation where Nora (Zsófia Sza-mosi) is off to at the early age of 32 after she applied for voluntary implantation. And once you’re on the Plantation you make the steady process towards becoming a tree to give food for those in Hologram Park so they may live in their aforementioned luxury.

Our hero for this film is a latter-day Orpheus in the guise of Nora’s 28-year-old husband Stefan (Tamás Keresztes). A psychiatrist who has been able to move on over the death of their son, he goes looking for a loophole in the seemingly Gordian knot of this world we are in. He contacts his brother, a DJ for the sardonically named Klub 49, who brings Stefan to the attention of a hacker. After this meeting, Stefan is set to enter the Plantation as the official city psychiatrist who will interview the people who work there. The world of the Plantation is a heavy burden for some, and a delight for others. One of those workers who feels the burden of their work is Doru (Judit Schell), a plant pathologist who has an unclear history with Stefan’s DJ brother. What is clear though is she will help Stefan get Nora out of the Plantation and towards a Wizard of Oz figure in Professor Paulik (Géza D Hegedűs), who she alleges can reverse Nora’s trajectory.

Fans of a particular type of sci-fi will be clearly drawn to White Plastic Sky. Its plot is reminiscent of some of the best sci-fi cinema of the ’70s, most notably Logan’s Run (Michael Anderson, 1976) and Soylent Green (Richard Fleischer, 1973). Unfortunately though the basic plot doesn’t develop much further out of its confusing world (the whole reason why people are turned into trees isn’t as explicit as it should be). The twists are as pronounced as its heartbeat-inflected soundtrack.

What deserves credit is the decision to make this an animated film, using a mixture of computer-generated 3D models and rotoscoping. Visually, the film is mostly flawless (albeit at times clunky). The questions of how humanity is going to be in a 100 years are worthy of exploration. This vision though doesn’t penetrate and probe enough. This future isn’t as horrifying as the filmmakers would like to suggest due to too many scenes being drawn out needlessly, plus a chase scene which doesn’t enliven the film but rather seems plodding and mechanical.

White Plastic Sky premiered at the 31st edition of the Raindance Film Festival, when this piece was originally written. Also showing at the 41st Turin Film Festival.


By Chris Simpson - 19-10-2023

Chris grew up in Bracknell and Slough, which explains 90% of his choices. To pay the bills he has worked as a waiter, a cinema projectionist, a shoe salesman, an attendant in an amusement arcade, hiri...

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