Customer Review

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This film is for life - not just for Christmas, 9 April 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: My Life As A Dog [VHS] (VHS Tape)
By the time the end credits rolled, "My Life as a Dog" had bounded on to my lap, presented it's paw, and gatecrashed my Top 10 Favourite Films of All Time. Up there with Midnight Cowboy, Stand by Me, Radio Days and The Lady from Shanghai. That Good. It is at least 10 years since I saw a film that connected with me this forcefully. It is Swedish and so subtitled - therefore viewing while Double Vision Drunk is not a practical option. But bear with it - it's worth the effort! Essentially a snapshot of a young boy's life, this film contains no explosions, very little violence, no sex and the budget appears to have been minimal. Who cares? It made me laugh out loud several times, literally made my spine tingle with the acuteness of it's observations on growing pains and, bearing in mind that I was watching it in company, provided at least 4 mortifying "Hold on!There's something in my eye" moments.
The story is set in Sweden in what appears to be the late 1950s or early 1960s. The central character is Ingmar, who is a boy of about 12 or 13 years of age. His mother is ill in some unspecified way, and seems to be deteriorating. We presume that the father is either dead or long gone. His brother is a sullen, unsympathetic character, although there is a hint that his demeanour is a defence mechanism in the face of what is an uncertain future. Ingmar dotes on a dog called Sikan. His mother tells him that he is to travel to a country village to visit his uncle and aunt, to allow her to recuperate. Ingmar is understandably perturbed by this development but has no option in the matter. So we have the heart wrenching themes of impending tragedy and childhood powerlessness established very early on in the film. A little bleak, to say the least.
However, his relatives are extremely welcoming people and his uncle,it transpires, has a wonderful childlike, surreal imagination and sense of humour. His description at the dinner table of how sausages are made is truly bizarre and provided the first spine tingling moment! The film unfolds in little episodes which delight with the way in which they depict adolescent awkwardness - the trials of attending a new school, making new friends and trying to fit in; the agonising awkwardness of the adolescent crush. The detail is wonderful. One scene depicting the obligatory tunelessness of a school recorder ensemble triggered vivid flashbacks to my own childhood. And that's the beauty of it. The themes are universal. I went to school in Nottingham and North Wales in the 1970s. A world away from Ingmar. And yet I identified with every theme explored in this film.
The film is littered with weird and wonderful characters - one local is something of a home grown Houdini , constantly setting up outlandish amateur feats of death defying physical prowess such as tightrope walking and swimming under ice. When word arrives that his impromptu shows are about to start, the whole village downs tools and congregates to gasp at his near-disastrous exploits, and this sense of community lends the film a nostalgic (but never syrupy)glow. Also the film is beautifully enhanced by Ingmar's intermittent voiceover. Always delivered against a still backdrop of a magical starlit sky, Ingmar muses (off camera and presumably as he is drifting off to sleep) on various events such as the fate of Laika, the first dog in space. These moments provide him and the viewer with little pockets of serenity amongst the turmoil of his "daylife". This adds to the sense of childlike wonder. Long before the credits rolled I knew that this was a film that i would re-visit again and again. It is achingly funny and heartbreaking by turns. Riddled with the frailty and absurdity of life. Hold on! I've just changed my mind. Make that Top 5!
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