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Animation / Firing Range

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Firing Range (Russian: Полигон Polygon) is a 1977 short Soviet Science Fiction animated film by Anatoly Petrov. The plot is based on an anti-war short story by Sever Gansovsky. An inventor has made a tank that reads minds and can sense the fear and hostility someone in danger has- and only will fire if it senses it. He sells it to the generals that drafted his son into the war. The son died, and was awarded a posthumous medal. The inventor planned to let the machine kill the generals, as he knew they feared their own weapons. The inventor is happy to have his revenge, but that's never been what his son wanted. The machine turns on him when he realizes in fear that getting revenge is not what he should have done.

It won the Official Selection of Oberhausen, Germany in 1979 and the First Prize Yerevan, USSR in 1978. It remains a powerful anti-war statement and uses an impressive animation technique known as photographica, a highly realistic style before computers.

The full film can be found here.

Tropes used by the film:

  • Anti-Villain: The Generals may be a bit smug, but don't actually do anything else other than having lunch and then trying to survive the inventor's death trap. Then again, it's Grey-and-Gray Morality for a reason.
  • Best Served Cold: The generals ask the inventor why he didn't create the tank back when they still had their colonies. Turns out he's seeking revenge for his dead son on the men who sent him to fight in those same colonies.
  • Book Ends: A single dove flying across the sky.
  • Dodge the Bullet: The tank can sense the intent to fire, moving position before the shell or missile hits.
  • Emotion Eater: The machine doesn't move until it senses fear.
  • The Empath: The machine will fire when it senses fear and hostility.
  • Flashback: The inventor flashes back to times with his now-deceased son to the times when he was happy. After killing all of the generals, he has another flashback and tells his son that he did it for him. The son runs away, scared.
  • Get It Over With: The younger officer realises he can stay alive as long as he remains within the dead zone where the tank gun can't lower enough to kill him. First the tank tries to run over him with the caterpillar tracks, but he's hiding in a slit trench. It then reverses too fast for him to catch up, so eventually the officer collapses in exhaustion and calls on the tank to finish him. He then breaks down in laughter realising that because he's no longer afraid of dying the tank won't attack. Until he remembers his earlier fear of being crushed by the tracks...
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The inventor is also killed by his own invention after letting it kill the generals.
  • It's Personal: The inventor of the machine sells it to the general who gave his son a posthumous medal after the war. He knew the machine would turn on them.
  • Laughing Mad: After one of the generals gives up because he was running so long, he laughs.
  • Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty: Intertwining of the two is used almost bizarrely.
  • Super Weapon Surprise: After everyone's dead the natives return to the island where the tank remains half buried in the sand. When a destroyer turns up to bombard the island as a precaution, the tank activates and drops a shell right into its missile bay.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: The inventor thinks he's immune because he no longer cares about living after his son's death. The tank kills him as well.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: in a way. The tank is perfectly harmless as long as nobody is afraid of it. Once they do, however, it will destroy them, even using the exact ideas they imagine.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: It is never revealed what nation's army the scientist is producing weapons for. But there are clues, such as the 1970s technology, the talk of "the colonies", battles in Africa that involved paratroopers, and the fact that the island is in Melanesia, that suggest that they are French. With the Israeli uniforms, a Soviet-looking APC and the tank's design in the film clearly based on the American SPG, it's clearly an abstract compilation of militaristic motifs. The logo on the characters' uniforms is clearly a copy of the NATO compass rose.