Rates: * * * * 1/2
Why Did I Watch It? Seen as part of MIFF 2020, via their digital platform.
A little black and white dog gets hit by a car, and in her last moments, thinks back over her life. Most specifically, the three humans who cared for her; Manole, a street performer and the dog’s one true love; Istvan, a warm hearted construction worker with a harridan of a girlfriend; and finally Solange, a cute little girl who grows into an indifferent teenager.
Each one’s interaction with Marona, is different.
Manole buys her on impulse, drunk in a bar, and ends up using her in his act. They are the closest of friends, so close that Marona actually leaves him, worried that she is keeping him from a lucrative job that involves travel (first moment of heartbreak: later, we see Marona’s face on ‘Lost Dog’ posters). Istvan finds her as a stray on a building site, and takes her home as company for his aging mother; when this doesn’t work out, he adopts the dog himself, over the complaints of his partner. You can tell this home is not going to last (second moment of heartbreak: when they play ball together, for the last time). Then Solange finds Marona, again a stray, living in her local park. She is an eccentric, misfit child (wearing an eyepatch), but she has a loving home, she adores the dog, and it seems Marona has found her place at last.
Dogs have always been a fruitful subject for films, but what is significant about this one is how differently they are depicted. They are usually imagined as a bit like four legged humans, mimicking our thought patterns, relationships, and wants. This film takes the opposite approach, highlighting that however close we get to our pets, they are different animals, with different needs. As Marona sums it up: dogs are happy when things stay the same, humans are always looking for something new.
These variances really underline what makes the human-dog dynamic so special; we provide each other with complementary things. Marona’s owners supply her with basics like food and shelter, and a sense of purpose; she in turn, helps them with their problems, provides comfort, is a sounding board, and a source of unconditional love.
Dogs were always a part of my life as a kid. My mother, a difficult woman in many respects, loved animals, and our house was always full of them; as a minimum we normally had a dog, two cats, a bird and some fish. We often had more. And thinking back on these animals, as I did watching this film, brings back so many memories. It is similar to what you hear people say about their favourite songs; that they were the soundtrack to their lives, inextricably intwined with significant events. For pet owners: the same, only more so.
Washington, the cocker spaniel who was part of the household when I was born; a friendly, slightly dopey, fellow with floppy ears, who was run over by a car when I was 5 (and solemnly buried in the backyard). Badger, an energy bundle terrier, who learned how to climb a ladder, and could escape ANY backyard fence, either over or under. Biggles and Sam, two doberman-labrador brothers that we brought with us from NZ to Australia, and Tyke, a Jack Russell that we bought on impulse at the local shopping centre one day, and who lived with my mother for 15 years subsequent. They all changed and enriched my life, and my childhood is unimaginable without them.
At the end of the movie, Solange takes Marona for a walk, but she has a date, and so ties her to a tree in the local park and says she will be back in an hour (heartbreak moment # 3). Marona gets loose and chases after her, following her onto a bus that slowly tracks its way across town. And as Marona runs, her environment changes, and she is now running through her own memories, in her mind’s eye seeing Manole, and Istvan, and young Solange, and reliving the happy times they had together. And I was watching what I had just been doing in my own head, thinking back on my life, framing all the events via the animals I had known. Not heartbreak moment # 4: I was just crying by this time, but in the best way. It is lovely to remember. A wonderful sequence.
The resonance of the story is deepend by the stunningly artistic animation. It is hard to come up with a simple way to describe it, so I will go with ‘post modern’; it blends many different techniques, and also borrows the Impressionist’s idea of infusing visual aspects with emotional elements. So Manole, an acrobat, has an elastic body and outfit, that swirls and morphs, his limbs stretching to unreal lengths, while Istvan is depicted in solid blocks of bright colour, highlighting his sturdy, but loving, nature. Each character gets this treatment, their personalities made tangible, and the different methods applied are spectacularly inventive. Likewise, the unnamed city where the story unfolds is bold and lively, a colourful collage of impossible angles and shapes, and sounds.
An inspired piece of visual imagination. A boundary pushing exercise in style, with a very warm heart. Brilliant.