Sunday, 21 February 2021

THE DOG WHO WOULDN'T BE QUIET/EL PERRO QUE NO CALLA - Rotterdam International Film Festival review

Making its debut at this month's IFFR, the award winning The Dog Who Wouldn't Be Quiet (El Perro Que No Calla) follows Sebastian (Daniel Katz) as he tries to placate his neighbours and workplace when his dog, suffering from immense loneliness, creates a noise issue by crying out in his absence. Choosing to completely change his way of life, we follow Sebastian as he navigates his way through and acclimatises to a number of unexpected personal and societal twists and turns.

Directed and co-written by Argentinian director Ana Katz, this monochrome social-realist fantasy depicts key moments in the life of Sebastian (Daniel Katz), a graphic designer and owner of an 8 year old dog who can't bear to be without him, to the point where he sobs until he returns. Sebastian is a shy, caring man who only wants the best for his pet and everyone around him, and is so unshackled to his own sense of emotional wellbeing that he's willing to change his life to keep others happy, including moving to a remote farm where he can live with his dog in peace. But when tragedy strikes and his life is up-ended once more, he finds himself at a loss, unsure of what direction his life will take and how much control he has in it.

Packing a lot of this man's life into its 73 minutes runtime, it's hard to gauge how much time passes on screen - but given the number of different hairstyles Sebastian dons, at least 5 years - as he drifts from job to job, caring for sick people and helping distribute food with a grocer's co-operative. Jumping between what appear to be random times in his life, it's a beautiful, peaceful film and Sebastian is a character that, even through inaction, seems all too relatable. He's an emotionally guarded but altogether "good" person, holding onto the frustrations he feels as life continually serves him another curveball. This may be his first screen credit, but it's a terrific, insulated performance from Daniel Katz, who's in almost every frame of the film. Even when he's not saying much (or even anything) in a scene, there's a deep sadness and emotional warmth in his eyes that speaks volumes.

Despite the hard to fully pin down synopsis I've offered, it's not all doom and gloom in Sebastian's life. In amongst the tragedies and setbacks that befall him, there's surprising moments of well-observed comedy, such as Sebastian's neighbours all arriving one by one at his house to complain about the noise from his dog, all squeezed into a small space and all carrying umbrellas, or the two way dancefloor seduction Sebastian shares with a young woman (Julieta Zylberberg) and the well placed jump forward in time that reveals the outcome of their encounter. Under Katz's direction, it's easy to become fully immersed in Sebastian's world, even when the story takes an unexpected sci-fi turn. I say sci-fi, but after the 2020 we've just had, seeing characters forced to don oversized face coverings and confirm to a set of strict rules - in this case the need to stay under a height of 4 foot - seems all too plausible. Still, it's another turn you don't see coming, partially illustrated by one of the moments of animation that are peppered throughout. 

A film about facing life's many unexpected, often suffocating moments of rigour head on, The Dog Who Wouldn't be Quiet continually shifts from the path you think it's on, giving lovely, sweet scenes of this average man's life that feel all too relatable, even when pushed into the realm of satirical sci-fi. A quiet, emotional, meditative experience. Enjoy.

Verdict

5/5

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