- Flatland (film)
:"This page is about the computer animated film, "Flatland". For the animated short film, see ."
"Flatland" (also released as "Flatland: The Film" and "Flatland the film"), is a 2007
computer animatedfilm based on the 1884 novella, "" by Edwin A. Abbott. The film was directed and animated by Ladd Ehlinger Jr. in Lightwave 3D. The screenplay was written by author Tom Whalen. The music was composed by Mark Slater.
The film is notable in that it was the first all-
computer animatedfeature film to be created by one person, without the normal legion of animators that a large-budget animated feature filmrequires.
The film opens in a two
dimensionalworld called Flatland populated by living squares, triangles, lines, circles and other polygons. It is three days until the celebration of the year 3000. A Square, attorney at law, struggles to instruct his grandson, A Hexagon, in the art of sight recognition. The lesson is interrupted by his brother B Square’s arrival. As clerk to President Circle, B Square wants to warn his big brother to stay home that afternoon while there is a meeting at the Senate of the Great Southern Republic of Flatland.
The Senate session has been called to discuss the increasing hostilities between the Chromatist movement and the government. Senator Chromatistes is the irregular polygon who leads this rebellious movement that wants to legalize the right of Flatlanders to color their sides as they see fit. Traditionally a taboo practice, the laws were previously relaxed somewhat which emboldened the Chromatists to demand legalization against the will of the majority. The Great Southern Republic distinguishes itself from its enemy, the Northern Kingdom, by its stances on Chromatism and Irregulars along with a democratic government. Relaxing the laws has already been perceived as weakness by the Northern Kingdom who are massing on the borders.
Unable to heed his brother’s advice, A Square meets with his new client, the first female charged as a Chromatist and on his way home finds himself embroiled in the melee issuing forth from the Senate. President Circle’s soldiers have assassinated Senator Chromatistes along with his supporters thus sparking a riot that has spilled into the streets of the city. A Square barely makes it home safely where he then barricades his family against the chaos for the night.
Once asleep, though, A Square has an unusual dream in which he visits a one dimensional world, Lineland, and attempts to convince the realm's ignorant king of a second dimension. A Square finds it essentially impossible to make the King of Lineland see outside of his eternally straight line. After waking uneasily, A Square learns that the riots which killed hundreds originated in the Senate meeting that B Square was attending. A visit to B Square’s home confirms that he is missing in action and sends A Square through the city now under martial law in a fruitless attempt to find B Square. Passing through the marketplace, A Square comes upon an unusual merchant selling a fascinating item called a glow point which he purchases for A Hexagon who has been sulking since being disciplined for coloring one of his sides purple.
The family prepares for another anxious night in Flatland only to be completely terrified by the sudden appearance in their home of A Sphere, CEO of Messiah, Inc. A Sphere declares that A Square is his apostle of the Three Dimensions and privately begins to explain things him. A Square resolutely refuses to entertain the concept of three
dimensionsto the point of becoming violent with A Sphere. In desperation, A Sphere decides the only way to convince A Square that there are three dimensions is to show him.
Suddenly and quite painfully, A Square finds himself plucked out of his dimension and into Spaceland. After his initial shock, the gospel of 3 dimensions becomes clear to A Square along with the possibility of locating his brother from his newfound point of view. Having business himself at the Great Hall, A Sphere brings A Square to look for his brother there. On their arrival, A Sphere delivers the standard millennial speech espousing three dimensions to President Circle and the Priests who are anticipating this very event. After rejecting A Sphere’s message and attempting to kill him, the Flatland leaders execute all who have witnessed the event except B Square who is only imprisoned for life on pain of silence while his brother watches from high above Flatland.
Realizing that time in Spaceland is short, at least for A Square, A Sphere brings him to Messiah, Inc. to finish his education on the gospel of Three Dimensions. Enthralled by the complex world of Spaceland, A Square posits further about 4 dimensions and so forth to A Sphere who dismisses it as nonsense. Meanwhile, A Square’s intrusion into Spaceland has become a national emergency which prompts the Spaceland Senate to call to him to appear for a hearing in the Senate Chambers. The Senators demand an explanation from A Sphere for this serious breach of protocol in bringing a Flatlander into their midst. They insist that it will be viewed as an act of war by their enemies, the X-Axis, who will take the opportunity to launch a full scale war.
During the discussion, A Square also learns that the X-Axis considers the Great Senate as weak because they have allowed the continued existence of his own world, Flatland, which they view as an abomination. As the debate in the Senate rages, an ailing A Square tries to explain his theory of multiple dimensions to an unsympathetic crowd. Air raid sirens wail as A Square collapses from the overwhelming effects of gravity on his two dimensional body and chaos ensues.
A Sphere manages to send his dying apostle back on his way to Flatland via a mailing tube before bombs destroy Messiah, Inc. but A Square’s journey back is fraught with obstacles and he ends up plunging in freefall toward Flatland and through its surface into unknown regions below where he experiences a revelation on dimensionality and infinity.
The next thing he knows, A Square finds himself in his own bed on the eve of the year 3000 and his family inform him that the government has issued a proclamation ordering the arrest of anyone claiming to proclaim the gospel of three dimensions. Undeterred, A Square hurries to see his brother in Flatland jail to discuss their new shared knowledge of the third dimension. B Square, afraid of execution, denies the experience and in a panic assaults his brother who falls temporarily into an unconscious state where he encounters A HyperSphere along with the Monarch of Pointland who curiously resembles a “glow point”. As the Monarch drones on in his monologue of “being the all in all, the one in the one,” A HyperSphere informs his former apostle that time is short and A Square must proclaim the gospel of the three dimensions to his fellow Flatlanders although they, like the Monarch, will probably remain trapped within their own perspectives.
Returning to himself, A Square manages to escape Flatland prison and the guards that B Square has set upon his brother. Arriving at his home ahead of his pursuers, A Square informs his wife that they are going to defect to the Northern Kingdom where he might be able to spread the gospel of three dimensions to a more open minded populace. The soldiers arrive and A Square makes his escape with the help of Frau A Square’s “war cry” that temporarily stuns them. Before he can reach the border, A Square is cornered by the soldiers whose attempt to dismantle and segment him is thwarted by the Northern Kingdom army’s attack. In the fracas, things suddenly begin to disappear as though sucked down through the fabric of Flatland until only A Square remains. He too begins to disappear until there is only his eye, then a point of light, a glowing point of light, which welcomes him into another dimension.
Writing the screenplay
Although a screenwriter himself, Ehlinger brought in celebrated author and former NOCCA (
New Orleans Center for Creative Arts) teacher Tom Whalen to write the screenplay. "Tom introduced me to what great cinema was. I was very fortunate to have taken his classes back in the 1980's. It was only right that my first feature should be written by him," said Ehlinger. An Internet collaboration proceeded throughout 2005. They attempted to stay true to the novel while at the same time making the necessary cinematic translations. They both agreed that the Victorian satire was dated. "We have so much to make fun of in today's world," said Ehlinger. "A one-to-one translation would be dull. But Edwin Abbottused geometry and math as a launching point for his humor, and we'd do the same."
Despite this one change, Ehlinger was adamant about sticking to the rules of a two dimensional world. "You can't have roads, cars, characters crossing each other. Those things are three-dimensional. You just can't do that stuff and say that you're making a film about Flatland." In fact he went a bit further than the original novel."Rain is mentioned in the original Flatland. Where would it drain to? Everyone would drown. I thought flatlanders should be like microbes, floating on top of a viscous plane, swimming with little hair follicles. They don't experience gravity." Which had even more implications.
"So if you're going to be pure about two-dimensionality, then you can't have writing, or movies. These are things that work for us because we have three dimensions and can understand a two dimensional plane. Flatlanders can't see those things, they'd have to write in one dimension, which is impossible to visualize." Ehlinger saw a thematic advantage to these limitations.
"Here's this culture that's permanently stuck in a sort of strange pre-industrial third-world stage. They have radios, of a sort, and doorbells, but not cars and not television. All of this allowed us to develop a satire of first-world versus third-world geopolitics."
"Spacelanders are the first-worlders, the Americans, the Europeans. Since they've got three-dimensions, they have super-advanced technology. Flying cars, floating buildings, computers - and weaponry."
Using off-the-shelf 3D animation software such as
Lightwave 3Dand Adobe After Effects, Ehlinger animated and edited the feature film by himself over the course of a year and a half, starting in 2006 and ending in 2007.
*Jorge J. Raub
*Sean C. Spurlock
* [http://www.flatlandthefilm.com Flatland The Film]
* [http://www.scifi.com/sfw/screen/sfw15198.html SciFi.com review]
* [http://www.filmthreat.com/index.php?section=reviews&Id=9709 Film Threat review]
* [http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/flatland_the_film/ Rotten Tomatoes review]
* [http://www.aintitcool.com/node/32603 Ain't It Cool review]
* [http://www.scifimoviepage.com/dvd/flatland-dvd.html SciFi Movie Page review]
* [http://home.austarnet.com.au/petersykes/topscifi/ SciFi Lists review]
* [http://www.sover.net/~ozus/flatland.htm Ozus World]
* [http://www.revolutionsf.com/article.html?id=3529 Revolution SF review]
* [http://www.al.com/entertainment/huntsvilletimes/index.ssf?/base/entertainment/1174814407141640.xml&coll=1 Huntsville Times article]
* [http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/97 Edwin Abbott on Gutenberg]
* [http://www.filmthreat.com/index.php?section=interviews&Id=1126 Phil Hall on Film Threat]
* [http://plus.maths.org/blog/2008/03/film-3-maths-at-movies.html Math at the Movies]
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