Gravitational complexity
Cultures collide and physics goes wild in <i>Patema Inverted</i>.

Gravitational complexity

Two young people find themselves separated by disparate worlds, circumstance, and physics gone wild

PUTNEY — From the very first frames of Yasuhiro Yoshiura's Patema Inverted, there is the promise of a beautifully realized fantasy. Three distinct aspects of this fantasy are revealed in quick succession, and each poses a different time and visual style.

The reconciliation of these three fleeting scenes quickly becomes the core of this full-length anime feature, which tells the story Patema and Age, two young people separated by disparate worlds, circumstance, and gravity.

Patema is a princess of an underground civilization comprised of the echoing tunnels and ruins of some ancient industrial substructure. She is inspired by a youthful curiosity for worlds other than her own yet is confined by the rules and culture of her people.

Age lives on the surface in a modern totalitarian dystopia. He too imagines traveling into the unknown but is thwarted by the ridged laws and dogma of his brainwashed society.

When Patema, accidentally, falls up into Age's world, cultures collide and physics goes wild.

* * *

Patema's gravity pulls her toward the sky while Age's grounds him to the surface. Age saves Patema from falling out of a tree into the sky, and thus the spark of their shared spirits is lit. Only by literally holding onto each other, thus each balancing the other's personal gravity, can they remain connected.

Thus balanced, they endeavor to evade the power hungry leaders of Age's world while trying to discover the secret history that keeps their worlds apart.

This delicate balance, which allows Age and Patema to fly or float, offers much of the film's visual wonder. While the characters of Patema Inverted lack the complexity and subtlety often seen in Hayao Miyazaki's films, the extraordinary rendering of their worlds seems to make up for it. Each scene allows for the full expression of Yoshiura's vision, and often he seems more interested in the storytelling of architecture and objects than the personal arc of his characters.

Yoshiura revels in the gravitational complexity of his story, and the disparate physics of his protagonists makes for a unique filmic perspective. While this idea has been explored before, seldom has such care been given to capturing such inverted viewpoints.

Again, it is as if the contrasting gravities of his vision propel the film's narrative, and his characters are merely the medium through which his vision is explored.

* * *

Patema Inverted takes advantage of the inherent power of anime film.

It draws on the contrast between the stillness of beautifully rendered landscapes and the animated chaos of flight and adventure. It captures the historic longing to find balance and unity in a post-apocalyptic world, conveying the need to transcend the mistakes of our ancestors and restore and preserve a natural order.

Finally, it lets its visual complexity carry the weight of the film. Patema and Age's connection does not need explanation, merely the image of them clasping each other's waists in an upside-down embrace.

While there are aspects of the film's structure that seem not fully rendered, the sophisticated attention to detail and mesmerizing cinema graphic qualities of the animation make it a pleasure to watch.

Yoshiura lets his story unfold with subtlety and the refreshing awareness that not everything needs to be explained but merely witnessed. He understands that violence is not the only way to create tension and that strength can be found in confronting the unknown.

This approach will make this film a pleasure for all ages. It will certainly intrigue older and more experienced admirers of anime, but is wonderfully accessible for new viewers of the form.

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