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Film

Review: The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet

The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet is structured like a reminiscence. Ana Katz’s film moves in a conversational rhythm, leaping perhaps years at a time in a straight cut, presenting in miniature some formative years of Sebas (Daniel Katz, the director’s brother), moving from one vignette or episode to the next as he slides from job to job, in the end encapsulating a significant portion of his entire adult life. 

Sebas is introduced fielding neighbours’ complaints about his dog’s plaintive cries while he’s at work, though throughout its screen time the dog makes nary a sound. The next leap is to an HR meeting, where, in a chilling combination of accommodation and ultimatum, he’s asked to stop bringing his dog into the office. So he quits. And it’s off to the next gig. And the next one after that.

Through all the changes that take hold of his days, Sebas remains recessive, and brother Katz’s performance makes expressive use of his eyes, which to me tell of nothing but sadness. Where other writers see in him a gregarious sort, open to opportunities, I see someone weary of company, distant by disposition, uneasily unmoored: a shot of him in a new role with a produce co-operative says it all—he keeps his eyes on his co-workers talking around him, laughing on occasion, but he doesn’t say a word. (An exception is when he meets a character played by Julieta Zylberberg: they dance awkwardly across from each other, and in the space of an edit are having a child together.) 

Likewise, when he takes a role as an assistant carer, he provides comfort to the main care-giver, an older woman whose plainspoken heartbreak is the opposite of his emotional register; when she turns from him and falters, he hesitates, stepping forward but retreating before he can reassure. There’s a lot he can’t say. Which also explains the ink-wash illustrations that flash by on occasion (these join with the handheld black-and-white cinematography without seam, and are appropriate for someone whose job, when he first appears, is in graphic design), kept for those events that are beyond words. 

One of these, a cosmic intrusion that makes the air four feet above the ground uninhabitable, has the effect of heightening the already recognisable class differences and wealth disparity within Argentinian society. The only way to stand upright in this damaged climate is to sport a head-bubble, a cross between a deep sea diver’s and a space suit’s helmet. Those who can’t afford the bubbles are forced to bend-double, assume a constant crouch and hobble around. It’s totally coincident that Katz’s film should appear in festivals and be released during a pandemic, but it taps into the economic dynamic created by COVID-19, namely the privileges of being able to lockdown and socially distance, or the decision of western nations to withhold worldwide access to vaccines. The free-floating financial anxiety Sebas suffers the inevitable fate of appearing like a globalised affect. 

Around the point of this planetary mishap Katz’s understatement begins to mingle with over-assertion. One of Sebas’s illustrations, of a human regressing to a neanderthal pose, is a bit too emphatic, and serves as a visual (over-)explanation for something the ridiculous image of a hospital corridor crowded with hunched adults expresses legibly enough.

Though I prefer the harsher tonal blend of Katz’s My Friend from the Park (also starring Zylberberg and Daniel Katz in a small role), with its sly menace and subtle evocation of grief and separation anxiety, The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet puts a likable emphasis on the small moment, the tiny but heartfelt action: the way Sebas’s knife, in extreme close-up, slices into an aubergine to make moussaka; the way the camera holds on a train seat bearing an abandoned sandwich, starting as Sebas’s point-of-view before he moves in front of the lens to claim it; the way he deliberates on whether to stand under his neighbour’s umbrella and draw just too close or run inside and grab his own. As much as paradigm altering Events claim the attention, Katz suggests, it’s the quiet happenings and apparently negligible details that make up a life.

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