Film: The Big Bang
Release date: 7th February 2011
Certificate: 18
Running time: 75 mins
Director: Picha
Starring: N/a
Genre: Animation
Studio: Lace
Format: DVD
Country: France/Belgium

This is an English-Language release.

Belgian cartoonist Jean-Paul "Picha" Walravens has only made a handful of feature films and so this DVD release of his 1987 X-rated animated sci-fi is something of a collector’s item. Dealing with themes ranging from world politics to domestic disharmony in a tongue-in-cheek (amongst other places) style, The Big Bang is the last film Picha made before opting to focus on television.

In 1995 World War III breaks out on Earth. A Mafioso with an overly itchy trigger finger uses a nuclear device to assassinate his target and Libya is destroyed. Libya then destroys Israel. Africa bombs Germany and Sweden annihilates itself. The chain reaction of countries wiping each other off the map continues until the face of the Earth is irrevocably changed and only two continents remain.

In the north, America and Russia have merged to become the USSSR, where all of the world’s remaining men have been horrifically mutilated by the nuclear fallout. The fairer sex has retreated to the south to form the new continent of Vaginia.

When war between the two nations threatens to destroy the universe, Fred Hero is sent by the Council of the Universe to make peace between the warring nations. Armed with a strategically placed light bulb which grants him invincibility, Fred makes his way to Earth to see if he can finally complete a super-hero mission…

If you are the kind of person who considers Family Guy to be a touch crude, or The Simpsons to be overly controversial, do not even consider watching The Big Bang. The film is a nonstop parade of sex gags and foul-mouthed dialogue, which unapologetically lampoons the worst aspects of both sides of the sexual divide.

The characters range from skin-crawling, through baffling to just plain outrageous. The Comrade-in-Chief and Una, the leaders of the USSSR and Vaginia respectively, stand out in particular. The former is a mess of skin and eyeballs who is carried around by a skeletal slave which he uses as a body; the latter consists almost entirely of boobs. Loads and loads of boobs.

Taken at face value, the story and much of the dialogue could have been written by a horny teenager, albeit a particularly demented one. However, there are moments of genuine ingenuity that make the film tolerable. The sparse and murky landscapes are well drawn and vaguely sinister, presenting a suitably bleak and unmanageable post-apocalyptic landscape. There is also something reassuringly real about the soundtrack’s use of gruff voices, footsteps, clicks and wobbles. The animation is incredibly creative and charmingly simple and serves as a reminder of how striking filmmaking of this kind could be in the age before computers did most of the work.

Picha is clearly not aiming for satire, despite his use of themes that were pertinent at the time, and the threat of nuclear war is approached with humour rather than foreboding. Light relief the film may be, but there are not enough jokes for it to carry this off successfully, and the script is full of far more smut than wit. The result is that, with its contorted characters and organised chaos, which vaguely recalls Pink Floyd’s The Wall, The Big Bang is often more terrifying than entertaining.

The Comrade-in-Chief is a nightmarish figure and, as such, his aggressive sexual advances towards the nation’s mascot, Liberty, make for uncomfortable, if not stomach-churning viewing. There are entertaining scenes here, a coastal struggle between the two warring nations which takes place over ‘I Get Around’ by The Beach Boys is a particular highlight, and Fred Hero is a humorously narrow minded and incompetent character- he may have all the superpowers in the universe, but lacks even a thimbleful of common sense.

While there are positives to be taken from The Big Bang, the prevailing feeling is one of discomfort. For the most part it is a headache of a film, so bafflingly unfamiliar that every frame is a challenge to the senses. It is, however, difficult not to recommend, if not for repeated viewings then certainly just to see once. This is the kind of madness that Seth McFarlene and Matt Groening can only dream of. It may lead to nausea, nightmares or even insanity, but The Big Bang truly has to be seen to be believed.

It may be hard to watch and lacking in the kind of humour that would have made it a more fulfilling experience, but The Big Bang is commendably anarchic, and demonstrates the kind of sexually charged animation that simply would not get made nowadays. Whether this is a good or a bad thing is open for debate. PK

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