It seems ridiculous to call a film that is only 73-minutes long an epic, but that is what The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet feels like. Though it should be made clear, by epic there’s nothing grandiose; there is nary a special effect to be seen and hardly a cast of thousands. But at the same time, Argentine filmmaker Ana Katz’s sixth feature encompasses a life and very nearly the end of the world.
The film begins modestly enough with a neighbourly dispute about a dog barking when its owner is away. One man arrives to talk but shortly half the neighbourhood appears to be huddled in the dog owner’s yard under umbrellas as the man tries to placate them. Sebastian or Seba as he is most frequently called (Daniel Katz, the director’s brother) is the dog owner, and the dog is a meek little thing, which we only hear whine once, and then for totally reasonable motives. His solution appears to be to take his dog to his workplace where he is employed as a graphic designer.
We only know this because he is being called in to be told either the dog goes or you do, which he immediately acedes to. In both these confrontations, Seba is calm and soft spoken and appears to feel no anger or animosity and for that matter they’re so pacifically resolved that ‘confrontation’ might be too harsh a word. Unfortunately, what looks like a perfect solution, a stay at a farm in the countryside is immediately cut short when something happens (whimper) to his dog. At which point, animation takes the place of live action as if we can only see the film through Seba’s eyes here.
The remainder of The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet follows Seba as he goes through different jobs, most of which seem to involve caring for people, or plants. He lives with his mother for a stint but is far from the layabout, cooking not only for her but for her friends – primary school teachers who are taking union action. In the cuts, life passes in sudden leaps. A girl spotted dancing at his mother’s wedding becomes Seba’s partner and is already pregnant with their child.
Seba helps pushstart a truck and is soon employed with the grower’s collective selling fruit and vegetables that they cultivate. A meteorite hits the Earth – another animation – and suddenly it becomes impossible to breathe unassisted while standing upright. There’s something hilarious and ridiculous in watching people crouching and squatting as they go about their business, but there’s also something chilling about the idea of bringing up a child in the midst of this calamity.
Made over a number of years (as can also be seen by Seba’s changing hairstyle and ultimately aging), Katz has made a gem of a film that is funny, deep and warm. The misdirection of the title is just one of many movements which manage to puzzle and yet – that rarest thing – delight at the same time. Perhaps “the dog who would not be quiet” isn’t Seba’s pooch so much as the world around him. Maybe it’s the human heart. Or maybe it’s the dog when we’re not there. Whatever it is, The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet deserves to be seen if not heard.
John Bleasdale | @drjonty