(Check our Chris Reed’s movie review of Delta Space Mission, the first-ever animated film to come out of Romania, is available now on VOD via Deaf Crocodile. Seen it?Join the conversation with HtN on our Letterboxd Page.)
When one thinks “1984,” one thinks Orwell and his meditation on totalitarianism (and perhaps how prescient he was about our current age). I propose now an addendum to that thought: a very strange cinematic concoction made within a totalitarian society that is somehow an ode to creative flights of fancy (or is it?). The Romanian animated Delta Space Mission—from directors Victor Antonescu, Calin Cazan, and Mircea Toia—freshly restored, offers a hallucinatory vision of the future that is part 2001: A Space Odyssey, part Star Wars, part Star Trek, and most of all uniquely its own thing. Strap on your lasers and get ready to blast off into the bizarre. You’ll never need drugs again.
Though most of the principal characters are human, there is one bipedal humanoid, Alma—with red hair and turquoise skin—who hails from the Planet Opp, her frog-like quasi-canine companion Tin always by her side. They join astronaut/engineers from Earth to explore the universe of other worlds using the artificial super brain of the new Delta Space Station as a guide. Unfortunately, that AI falls in love with Alma at first sight, subsequently malfunctioning and doing everything in its considerable power to thwart the mission and kidnap the object of its desire.
What ensues is simultaneously adult in nature and child-like, themes and images both mature and frivolous colliding in an often-wild mix. Not all parts engage equally, for some of the silliness has not aged well. Nor is it hard to escape the sense of derivative ideas (see above) that detract from the originality. Most of the time, though, Delta Space Mission is a delightful slice of unfettered imagination, its bright colors and oddball narrative a joy to watch.
See Tin leap! See Tin chew the metal legs of killer robots! Oh, no! Now he’s falling to his potential death in a lake below. Not to worry, for there are more strange creatures lying in wait to surprise us and take the story in a new direction. Will Alma’s human rescuers Dan, Oana, Yashiro, and Anuta show up before it’s too late? And is their combined might and intelligence enough to outsmart Delta? They created it, after all. You’ll just have to stay until the end to find out. The film is but 70 minutes, so your wait won’t be long.
It’s a wonder that authoritarian regimes survive for as long as they do, given our persistent movement towards liberated self-expression. Then again, as much as Delta Space Mission can be read as a paean to inspired ingenuity, it’s also a tale of how the outlier is brought back into the fold. Like all great art, it’s open to interpretation. Is Delta villain or lost soul? You decide.
– Christopher Llewellyn Reed (@ChrisReedFilm)