Let’s take a look at the French-Hungarian co-production, which has won several awards and makes much more sense as an adult than as a child, Times Masters.
The giant bugs with their loud wings who are scalping children. The scary, faceless angels. The ugly tentacles devouring friendly “horses”. As children, these are the things we remember most from the “Time Masters”, the cult 1982 French-Hungarian co-production sci-fi film that is still considered the crown jewel of Hungarian animation – and although we only saw it in cinemas or on TV in Hungary from ’83 (and later on VHS and double-disc DVD), it became known around the world as “Time Masters”.
The cartoon changed the way many of us thought. Some people loved it, some hated it, many didn’t understand what it was trying to get at, and some even found its ending illogical and far-fetched. However, it cannot be forgotten.
Because „Les maîtres du temps” is a French-Hungarian co-production, it is also based on the visual designs of Jean Giraud, better known as Moebius. He is also responsible for the visuals for films such as “Alien”, “Tron”, and “The Fifth Element”.
The story doesn’t seem too complicated: a young boy named Piel crashes with his father Claud on the planet Perdide. After losing his parents, the child is forced to venture into the strange jungle alone. His only companion is a transmitter, whom Claud has named Miki so that Piel can talk to him in case of trouble. On the other end of the line is Claud‘s best friend Jaffar, somewhere far out in space.
He immediately comes to his aid, but understandably it’s not an easy task. On the one hand, because he has to change his route, and on the other hand, he has to find a way to keep him away, to protect him from the dangers on the planet, while he is only a bystander. To complicate matters further, the spaceship’s passenger, Prince Matton, is not happy about the change of destination and tries to thwart the plans.
At the first stop, Jaffar visits his old friend Silbad, where they rest until the right conditions are right to continue the journey. In the meantime, all three except Matton (Belle, Matton‘s wife, protects little Piel as a mother) take a liking to the little boy and give him good advice, trying to calm him down. At Silbad‘s residence, they witness a wonderful event that enriches the crew of the spaceship with two more companions.
But that’s all we want to say about the story because the focus is always on the nature of the journey and the dialogue. Although the direction of René Laloux (“The Fantastic Planet”, “Gandahar”) has been criticized by many, and some have called his plot incoherent, we think he has made a very good science fiction film. Stefan Wul‘s “The Orphan of Perdide” (1958) was made into the “Time Masters”, thanks to a collaboration between Moebius and the Hungarian Pannonia Film Studios.
In my opinion, the creators have not only created a gem of Hungarian animation, but also a sci-fi film with a pithy, yet somewhat simple storyline, infused with social criticism. Of course, every message is not only worth finding, but also worth recognizing and dealing with.
Although the work is billed as a children’s film (it won 2 awards in 1982: Best Children’s Film – Fantafestival, Best Feature Film – International Animated Film Festival), we would say that it also has much deeper ideas than many people realize at first glance.
While it does cleverly hide the critical overtones of individuality vs. societal expectations, we think that the open-minded can easily spot what “Time Masters” is all about. If you also pay attention to the dialogue of the gnomes, it becomes a little clearer what they are trying to get at.
The animated film deals with several fascinating themes, as well as being entertaining. One is greed, which overrides all needs and survival. When one wants it all, one’s common sense is often off, capable of driving oneself or one’s companions to suicide in the hope of reward.
This is paralleled by self-sacrifice, which is the exact opposite. But all of this is linked to a fascinating set of questions, which Psycho-Pass also explores. The collective consciousness is a popular premise in science fiction.
The concept can be approached from several angles, including assimilation. The aim is always to ensure that society has all the knowledge and can make decisions based on that knowledge. But behind this strength lies a weakness, because uniformity and the absence of secrets make the group vulnerable.
The importance of the individual is inescapable, although many ideas try to kill its presence. The nationalist, fascist, and communist mindsets also work to weed it out, but a race, a nation, society will only be truly diverse, so thorough and analytical, victorious and surviving if there is no exclusion of this kind and opinion remains free.
Last but not least, we would like to mention that “Time Masters” was released at almost the same time as Attila Dargay‘s “Vuk” (“Vuk”, “Pom Pom’s Tales”, “Szaffi”, “Vili the Sparrow”, “Lúdas Matyi”, and “Captain of the Forest”), which has since become one of the biggest Hungarian hits.