“It’s basically an animated, feature-length music video.” This is all the information I had going into Interstella 5555, and I’ll freely admit that I wasn’t entirely thrilled about having to sit through it. As it turned out, I had nothing to fear; Interstella 5555 definitely isn’t for everybody, but the interesting concept backed by a solid soundtrack makes it worth at least one viewing.
French House/Electronic duo Daft Punk use their album Discovery to narrate and guide the film’s plot. There’s not a single word of dialogue in the entire sixty minutes, and sounds effects are scarcely utilized. The plot follows a band of blue rock-star aliens as they’re kidnapped and brought to Earth. Upon their arrival, these space Smurfs are painted white and brainwashed into believing they’re human. Their manager, the villain of the film and the man responsible for kidnapping them, uses their extraterrestrial musicianship to produce a number one hit. Meanwhile, back in outer space, a superfan and special forces operative begins his quest to deliver the band back to their home planet.
If you’re not already a fan of Daft Punk or anime, Interstella 5555 probably won’t make a convert of you. A lot of the tropes of anime are present: the crazy hair, loads of melodrama (even without dialogue, this is pretty apparent), etc. The animation is average, lacking the detailed elegance of movies like the older Akira and Princess Monoke. It’s easy to forgive these small flaws however, as the music is really the movie’s backbone.
Discovery is arguably Daft Punk’s best album, and it’s put to great use here. Lyrics, when they’re present, take a backseat to songs’ instrumentals, so the tone of Interstella is generally dictated by the harmony or discordance, heaviness or lightness, of the song currently playing. It’s very effective, and the tone of a scene mostly matches that of the music. There are a few instances though, where things don’t quite mesh. The biggest offender here is “Veridis Quo,” a relaxed, slightly classical-sounding piece which begins to play right as the intense final act of the film begins. I also felt that there were some missed opportunities in terms of editing. It would have been nice to see more cuts made, more actions performed, in relation to the beats of the music. There are a few, but I felt if a greater effort had been made in this area, a more even flow could have been established and maintained.
It’s truly impressive that so much can be communicated and that an entire plot can be constructed and delivered without a single word being uttered. There may be one or two points that are a little unclear (the manager’s plan for world domination, for one), but everything else is clearly presented and expertly constructed. There are three acts, each with its own beginning and ending, and each escalating until the climax in the last twenty minutes.
Interstella 5555 is a unique film, built around a unique concept. It’s certainly not perfect, but there isn’t much else like it. You might hate it, but try giving it a chance – it’s worth it.
Best Songs: “One More Time” and “Crescendolls”
Recommended Viewing: Akira