VOD film review: The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet
Cathy Brennan | On 22, May 2021
Director: Ana Katz
Cast: Raquel Bank, Daniel Katz, Valeria Lois
A libellous title if ever there was one, The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet is nonetheless a triumph of sensitivity. Shot over three years, the latest film from Ana Katz follows a young man named Seba (played by the director’s brother, Daniel) from bachelorhood to fatherhood.
It begins with Seba being confronted by his neighbours about the noise his dog makes while he is at work. This is followed by a meeting with his employers who, with venomous courtesy, force him to choose between his canine companion and his job (he chooses the former). One of the sly jokes of the film is that the dog is remarkably well-behaved whenever it is onscreen.
From there the film shows Seba drifting through life with whatever work he can find, charting his attempts at building a more meaningful life and cataloguing the random injustices that the universe hurls at him. Katz structures these events as glimpsed vignettes, occasionally dipping into bouts of minimalist animation when things are at their most cataclysmic.
A deft use of tone gives the film a rich emotional hue. Dashes of humour are woven into quotidian tragedies and apocalyptic anxieties. A perfect example is the scene where Seba comforts the frazzled mother of a man he assists in the caring of. The heartbreaking reality of the woman’s stress is suffused with Seba’s own bumbling awkwardness.
Katz frequently has her brother framed in doleful close-ups. This makes the most of his wonderful, pool-like eyes, which convey a continually wearied innocence.
Seba’s struggles are shown to be the result of an unequal society that can make living a tedious battle. The indignities of poverty and unemployment, the coercive pressures of conformity; elements such as these are illustrated fleetingly along the film’s breezy pace yet remain lodged in the viewer’s mind and inform the final third of sci-fi absurdism.
At the time of release, that final third stands out because of its sci-fi twist, which sees much of humanity forced to wear bubble-like helmets. It’s a narrative jerk that hauntingly recalls the initial surrealism of the coronavirus pandemic in its earliest stages, even though Katz says the idea came to her years before Covid-19 struck. While jarring at first, such a conceit actually works in the film’s favour as it reinforces the previously established themes of inequality.
Yet despite its social commentary, what makes The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet work is that it’s about one man. In one interview, Katz described it as a film about grief. She and Daniel lost their father when they were younger. Her earlier film, My Friend from the Park, was dedicated to him. Death is a wispy presence in The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet and what humour is there arises out of melancholy. That the film is born out of such personal feeling is perhaps what makes it so beautiful to watch, and why its tone works so well in every moment.