The largely ordinary existence of one man is captured in Ana Katz’s bizarre but quietly compelling sixth feature film.
As much as its taut 73-minute runtime would speak to the contrary, The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet has a lot to get through. The time span of Argentinian director Ana Katz’s sixth and so-far shortest feature covers years, homing in on events that range from making homemade Moussaka to lo-fi post-apocalyptic science fiction.
The results are, perhaps unsurprisingly then, rather strange. But beautifully so: shot in consistently handsome monochrome by five different cinematographers, the film feels like a series of pensive metaphors weaved together in an enigmatic, elliptical tapestry that frames the beguiling ordinariness of existence through the life of one man.
That vessel is Seba, a quiet, observant illustrator in his mid-30s and about the furthest thing from a traditional movie hero. Played by Katz’s brother, Daniel, the film opens with him trimming back a hedge. It then jumps to a conversation in the rain with several of his neighbours, who all complain that his dog’s whimpering is a sign of its unhappiness. A stoic, gentle creature—a description that could just as accurately be applied to Seba himself—the irony of this early exchange, given the film’s title, is that the dog makes very little noise at all.
Such subversion is just the start. Soon, a terrible thing happens—playing out as a series of simple but striking ink illustrations—that leaves Seba all alone. But if it might initially tease a story about loneliness and isolation, the narrative —in perhaps the loosest sense of the word—unfurls as one about interaction and relationships. Courtesy of its increasingly vast time jumps, the film shows Seba in a slew of temporary jobs as a house sitter, carer, and vegetable grower while building a family with a woman (Julieta Zylberberg) he meets at a wedding. Within this, there occurs a notable re-centering of the drama, as Katz deviates from traditional narrative beats in favour of a more striking, perceptive look at how such events impact lives. The conventional meet-cute, for instance, is reduced to a few silent, momentary glances across the dancefloor. In the next scene, the woman is heavily pregnant with Seba’s child.
Then, an inexplicable global disaster hits, bringing with it uncanny pertinence—not to mention stinging socio-economic observation—to a world still reeling from the devastating effects of a pandemic. Crucially though, in the face of genre-altering events, Katz remains true to her film’s earlier convictions: preserving the ruminative power by ensuring the focus never shifts from those required to adapt life’s unpredictable, perpetually changing nature.
In lesser hands, everything about The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet might seem jarring and gimmicky. As it is, it feels entirely seamless: a poignant patchwork of insular focus and expansive examination that is as deep as it is fleeting. At times, it feels like art in its purest form—personal yet universal, intimate yet alien. At others it moves toward something a little more political, something a little more tangible. At others it feels entirely existential, as if Katz has captured the very essence of memory: several seemingly arbitrary moments—from sitting on a train to slicing an aubergine—that when presented collectively suddenly become meaningful. Gentle, spellbinding stuff.
It’ll likely garner greater appreciation from the arthouse crowd, but The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet is an enchanting, mystical entity. It has very little bark and next to no bite. It needs neither.
The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet will be available to watch exclusively via Curzon Home Cinema from 21 May.
Words by George Nash
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