Dog Days

Movie Review by EDF

Starring: Maria Hofstatter, Alfred Mrva, Georg Friedrich, Erich Finsches
Director: Ulrich Seidl

There’ve been some European movies in the last couple of years that have courted controversy due to their content. To the cynical, this might be seen as a way to get the movie noticed. One would think that DOG DAYS, which won the Venice Film Festival Special Jury Award, has done so despite its graphic depiction of sex and violence. Whether this will get DOG DAYS in hot water with certain countries’ censors is to be seen but it is certainly going to cite controversy that recently got the French movie THE PORNOGRAPHER (aka LE PORNOGRAPHE) in trouble.

A long hot summer, somewhere in the suburbs of Vienna, there lies a newly built supermarket and housing estate. What follows is another one of those interwoven stories where characters cross each other’s paths, but these are the sort of people you wouldn’t want to interact with.

Anna (Maria Hofstatter) is a hitchhiker who hitches rides to nowhere in particular all day long, rattling off bizarre top ten lists about nothing in particular, as well as constantly nosing about in people’s personal business or items that might just be lying around the car. Anna’s polite but slightly crazed ramblings usually take a turn for the worse, which virtually always ends with her being thrown out of the car.

Mr Hruby (Alfred Mrva), an alarm systems salesman, tries his hardest to sell his alarms but when he’s put in charge of catching the vandal who has been vandalising all the cars in the neighbourhood, Hruby is on the case, day and night. When results are expected from him, he knows he must find a scapegoat and soon.

The young Klaudia (Franziska Weib) likes a good time every evening but her boyfriend Mario (Rene Wanko) is full of jealous rage and attacks anyone looking at Klaudia.

Then there is the strange tale of the Greek (Victor Rathbone) and his ex-wife (Claudia Martini) who are now divorced due to a tragedy but both still live in the same house without speaking a word to each other.

Mr Walter (Erich Finsches), a senior citizen, loves his dog, tends to his garden, weights each item of grocery he buys, complains about noisy neighbours and plans to celebrate his 50 th wedding anniversary with his housekeeper. Strange indeed.

A teacher (Christine Jirku), who participates in group sex orgies, dates Wickerl who is 20 years her junior. When Wickerl brings a friend for an evening’s entertainment, the evening ends in excess and violence.

There have been enough movies made using this form of narrative which, when they work, can be very enjoyable. Unfortunately, most of the characters are types of people you wouldn’t want to associate with, so consequently it is hard to conjure up sympathy for most of them. Each person has their own motive or dark secret and for most of the time there is no sense of hope that anything will get better for any of them.

With the sort of dull images that would not go astray in a BIG BROTHER-type environment, we are humbled with images of people sunbathing in the sweltering sun, going to the toilet, shaving private parts and posing nude in front of their bedroom mirror. Not quite the sort of happy Hollywood movie that comes our way, but to focus on a dreary set of people makes viewing this movie on par to voyeurism. If this a glimpse of a world filled with disillusioned and lonely souls, director and co-writer Ulrich Seidi can keep his intimate vision of life to himself.

2 out of 6 stars

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