May 17, 2014
TheArchangel (All reviews)
"Sakasama no Patema" is a gripping WWII drama set in 1944 Nazi Germany, detailing the struggles of a young German boy, Age (Eiji), hiding his Jewish friend, Patema, after the government declares that all people of Jewish descent must be "taken care of." Together, they traverse war-torn Germany to bring Patema home and along the way discover the truth of the government's persecution.


No, not really. That plot synopsis is pretty close though.

After falling into a pit that her village declared a danger zone, young Patema is plunged into a bizarre new world where everything is inverted. Suddenly, literally falling into the endless sky becomes a very real possibility. She meets an inhabitant of the land, Age, and they quickly connect with each other. Patema clings to Age very closely, as he is the only thing that stands between her and being "eaten" by the sky. Despite her fear of the sky, Patema discovers the amazing new world that she had been told stories of as a child, living her dreams of seeing the world for what it really is.

The world that Age lives in is classically isolated and under absolute rule, complete with a 1-dimensional dictator that crosses his hands in a way that screams "excellent work, my minions." Looking into the sky is forbidden, and Age has already suffered for his curiosity. With Patema, however, he learns that there is more to the world than what he has been taught, and seeks to live his own dreams of flying in the sky as well.

The characters are connected in this visually stunning film, literally to stop them from falling but also to emphasize the message that people of different backgrounds can coexist and live peacefully. It's a time tested story that we are no doubt familiar with, but the way the film uses the inverted gravity to bring the main characters together and to build the legends and myths surrounding the world is remarkable.

The fact that everything in the film is reversed depending on your perspective is a unique aspect that plays with what is real and not. For example, you could turn your screen upside down and still watch essentially the same film, because the film itself frequently turns itself around so that we can see the same thing from either Patema or Age's perspective. What is normal ground to Age is a ceiling to Patema, with nothing but the vast sky beneath her feet, and vice versa.

The story is thought provoking and with so many inversions of the screen, we begin to feel just like one of the characters, confused at the sudden shift of gravity and afraid of what is beneath us. Through this adventure, Patema and Age encounter new worlds themselves, thinking to themselves "This is what was really out here?" They see beautiful things, like the stars in a swirling galaxy, and they see the abandoned, like the wasteland their ancestors forgot about. Even when everything comes together, there are still mysteries left unanswered. Why not try figuring them out?

The artwork and animation for the film are top notch. Particular detail is made to the sky, because for all the characters, it is such a mysterious place. Clouds swirl in streaks of white and gray, the stars peek out from the night sky, and the sun illuminates in soft streaks of orange and yellow. There is a scene in the middle of the film that is particularly stunning, where Patema and Age finally found out what links their world and the truth of the past. The color palette between Patema and Age's world is very distinct, and its use of color is no doubt excellent.

Along with the visually pleasant film is a soundtrack that captures the mood perfectly. Sometimes it is like "space" music, and at other times it is a sweeping orchestral piece to go along with the sense of adventure in the film. The ending song is "Patema Inverse" by Estelle Michaeu, which is a nice listen that emphasizes the connection between two different worlds.

It's been a long time of waiting for this film, but it was well worth it. It was an enjoyable, romantic adventure that took the familiar story of acceptance between 2 different worlds and spun it literally around with gravity inversion, a result of a failed experiment from a long, long time ago. At the heart of the film is a realization that people need each other to survive, and to discover our common features is truly a wonderful thing.

Don't be afraid to look up at the sky! Likewise, don't always look down at the ground! There is a much bigger, more fantastical world out there than what school and books tell you. All it takes is a little push.