This past year and a half, I’ve been hesitant to engage with any art that feels like it’s directly or indirectly engaging with 2020 or COVID-19. Not that all art is escapism but quite frankly when I look at the preview images for projects like Kenneth Branagh playing Boris Johnson, I can’t help but think, who actually wants to watch that? We are not done living it yet.
But sometimes you get a piece of magic that manages to take the essence of something while maintaining that separation. In this instance, The Dog Who Wouldn’t be Quiet truly does distil the DNA of 2020: the distance, the isolation, the focus upon the projects and little details of a year in a vacuum while never compromising on telling the story of its own strange world.
The Dog Who Wouldn’t be Quiet is the latest film by Argentinian multi-hyphenate Ana Katz. It’s an absurdist drama concerning Seba (Daniel Katz), an illustrator who drifts between a series of life experiences provoked by his neighbours and co-workers’ complaints that his seemingly quiet dog won’t stop crying. It goes to some more surreal places from there.
Now, I’m just going to get one comparison out of the way. Yes, this is absurdism. Yes, it’s in beautiful monochrome so of course, Eraserhead comes to mind but beyond that, it would be a disrespect to both films to treat them as anything other than fully unique pieces. What works exceptionally well is that Daniel Katz, the emotional centre and focal point of the film is utterly passive against the chaos of the universe and yet is utterly compelling. It is an incredibly low-key performance that is occasionally quite amusing in his utterly unflappable responses. It is well-matched by an ensemble that keep the universe entirely grounded.
Ana Katz, a director with quite an astonishingly diverse back catalogue who doesn’t seem to like making the same film twice utilises occasional stylistic quirks such as cutting to black and white storyboards in place of showing the action but never allows this experimentation to descend into cuteness. On a technical level, the stunning monochromatic photography and the bittersweet score by Javier Abinet & Dario Jalfin do magnificent work in setting a mood without ever drawing attention to itself.
At only 73 minutes, this is a perfect exercise in not overstaying your welcome and making every minute of screen-time matter. From the concept to execution, at every single level, there are no complaints about this film and yet, it is also a perfect example of how to present absurdism in an accessible yet uncompromised form.
The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet is available now