Dog Days

Dog Days


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Originality is worth loads. You can almost forgive Ulrich Seidl for making an unwatchable movie, because it's so odd. Who else would ask a 60-year-old woman to do a striptease? The question is, why?

Dog Days refers to the peak of summer, when heat hangs in air like oven breath and you pray for autumn to refresh stagnant memory. Equally, it could mean the embers of passion, dusty and chill, with the body wrecked and nothing left but time.

This is Austria and these are people who have lost the ability to dream. Spiritually, they have died and gone to the supermarket. Old age beckons like a cruel jest. Even the younger ones are sick in the head.

As an ensemble piece, the film is not waving, but drowning. It feels misogynistic. Scenes of sexual humiliation can be violent and there are lingering moments with fat people, lying on lilos in the sun, wearing ugly bikinis and baggy pants. Suddenly, without explanation, you are watching an orgy. Are they shooting a porn flick?

Characters emerge from the void. The old man in shorts, who can't stand the sound of his neighbours arguing, finds it hard to carry on without his dearly departed wife. The mad girl, with an obsession for listing trivia, spends her days hitching lifts. An older woman waits to be ravished by an ageing rocker, while a lap dancer is physically abused by her boyfriend. Marriages are broken, or empty. The burglar alarm salesman sleeps in his car rather than go home.

Seidl uses non-actors on the whole. He sets up scenes of surreal brilliance, like the estranged husband practising tennis shots in an empty swimming pool, while his wife entertains her masseur in the bedroom. Is he mocking old age, or exposing the futility of hope in this hedonistic abattoir?

For all its intimations of despair, Dog Days is difficult to forget. What is hard is sitting through it.

Reviewed on: 27 Sep 2002
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Sexual humiliation and dark desires amongst disillusioned overweight Austrians in hot weather.
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Director: Ulrich Seidl

Writer: Ulrich Seidl, Veronica Franz

Starring: Maria Hoffstatter, Alfred Mrva, Erich Finsches, Gerti Lehner, Franziska Weib, Rene Wanko, Claudia Martini, Victor Rathbone, Christian Bakonyi, Christine Jirku, Victor Hennemann, Georg Friedrich

Year: 2002

Runtime: 120 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Austria


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