What’s The Point? My Review

1971’s The Point is an animated feature based on a fable by musician Harry Nielsen. It is set in the Pointed Village in the Land of Point, where everyone and everything is driven obsessively by the point. One day, Oblio is born with no point. Though he and his family learn to work around his “disability” (as it would be described today), he nonetheless poses a threat to a local bully, who is the Count’s son. The bully and the Count conspire to have Oblio banished to the Pointless Forest for violating the law of the land that everything shall have a point. The first thing that Oblio observes in the Pointless Forest is that there are a lot of points. He meets a pointed man, which three faces, who keeps appearing at strategic intervals to “teach” Oblio how everything he has just experienced is pointless, but he himself refuses to help Oblio understand the point of anything. Among some of the many “pointless” characters Oblio meets, a Rock Man (or a Stoned Man, as he accidently once calls his people) tells Oblio that you don’t have to actually have a point just to have a point. And Oblio begins to see the hidden point to everything. For example, the point of the Balloon Women is to laugh and dance, or that the point of the Leaf Man is collect leaves. He determines that the only truly pointless person in the pointless forest is the pointed man. Once he makes this realization, he arrives at the Destination Point, pointing him back home to the Pointed Village. Everyone but the Count is excited to see Oblio again, who reveals the truth about points. The angered Count knocks off his cap to find out that Oblio has indeed grown a point, and this revelation causes the entire Pointed Village to lose their physical points in favor of the metaphorical point. They became round, proving that not everything necessarily has to have a point.

Harry Nilssen is cited on the Wiki as saying:

I was on acid and I looked at the trees and I realized that they all came to points, and the little branches came to points, and the houses came to point. I thought, ‘Oh! Everything has a point, and if it doesn’t, then there’s a point to it.’

And I kind of feel that that is the only way to really understand the point of The Point. I used to watch this on the Disney Channel, back when the Disney Channel was still a premium channel that showed classic Disney films and shorts, as well as an interesting selection of counter-culture subversive animation. Given the context of the 1980s, the choice of the Disney Channel to broadcast The Point probably has something to do with its messages of accepting diversity. It’s not that there’s a point to anything at all, but that because Oblio was born differently than everything else doesn’t mean he should be cast aside.

But there has to be more to it than that. This film was released in 1971, in the aftermath of the “come-down” from the 1960s, a decade full of change (especially among minority groups), war (Vietnam), and utopianism (peace and love). The Counterculture Movement (blanketing all of the sub-movements), once perceived as pointless, proved that it actually had a point. Even the burn-out Rock Man has a point, but he has to stay in the Pointless Forest because his point does not conform to the rigid pointedness of the Pointed Village. There is an embrace of society’s Fringe Culture in this film. From the perspective of society, they are pointless, which is why they are on the fringe, yet from their perspective, they are very pointy. Everything has a point.

And then there is the matter of the Pointed Man. He jumps in and out of Oblio’s journey like a three-headed god. Knowing that this character was created by Harry Nilssen and knowing he had a connection to the Beatles, I’m going to make a leap in logic and assume that this figure is inspired by the Trimurti of Hinduism. The Trimurti depicts the three Hindu gods, Brahma (Creation), Vishnu (Life) and Shiva (Destruction), as three facets of the same cosmic principle, and they are often depicted as three heads on the same neck. So this three-headed pointed man keeps popping in and out (literally, he’s there, then he’s not). Though Oblio concludes that he is pointless, he actually is helping Oblio come to the point of his journey, and in this case, he is fulfilling a trickster role. The pointed man knows full well what the point happens to be, but by intentionally trying to mislead Oblio by making him think that his adventures have no point, he is actually leading him straight to the point, that everything has a point (and everything is a part of Brahaman…). This realization of the point heals a Pointed Village that didn’t even know it was broken. The same can be said about the aftermath of the mass disillusionment that came with the end of the 1960s. Though everyone thought they had the point, they didn’t, and needed to be reminded.

This is framed by a father reading his son a bedtime story, though the son would rather watch his favorite program. A fitting frame to tie the message of the point into the modern world, even somewhat suggesting that television has no point, that story is where the point is to be found. A message especially true of today’s affinity with “reality television.” Yes, the argument can be made that there are some phenomenally storied television shows out there, but the point is that they are dwarfed by the number of “reality” shows.

So I guess that’s the point of The Point.

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