Wednesday, February 18, 2015

My Life as a Dog

Based on the novel by Reidar Jonsson, Mitt liv som hund (My Life as a Dog) is the story of a young boy who is sent to live with his relatives in a small town in Sweden due to his mother’s terminal illness which he doesn’t know much about. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom and screenplay by Hallstrom, Jonsson, Brasse Brannstrom, and Per Berglund, the film is a coming-of-age story of a 12-year old boy who deals with his new surroundings and the changes in his life. Starring Anton Glanzelius, Melinda Kinnaman, and Tomas von Bromssen. Mitt liv som hund is a evocative and very touching film from Lasse Hallstrom.

Set in late 1950s Sweden, the film revolves around a young boy who is sent away to live with his relatives during the summer while his mother is coping with a very serious illness. There, the boy copes with not just changes in his life but also in how complicated the world is as the character of Ingemar (Anton Glanzelius) is a representation of innocence. While he’s a character that is quite wild and rambunctious, he is someone that is still a child at heart as he is unable to comprehend exactly what is wrong with his mother when he is sent to live with his relatives in a small town while his older brother Erik (Manne Serner) is sent to live with their grandmother. For Ingemar, he ventures into a world that is much simpler while trying to understand the way things are as it relates to the dog Laika who was sent to space inside the Sputnik satellite and other things while pondering about his own dog who was sent to a kennel during his time away from home.

The film’s script is definitely told from Ingemar’s perspective where he would occasionally narrate the film as it plays into his curiosity about the ways of the world including an increasing interest towards sexuality. At the same time, Ingemar deals with other strange things such as a tomboy named Saga (Melinda Kinnaman) who is coping with becoming a woman. The time where Ingemar spends the summer with his uncle Gunnar (Tomas von Bromssen) and aunt Ulla (Kicki Rundgren) would be fulfilling as it takes much of the film’s second act to play into Ingemar’s broadening view of the world. When he returns to the city in its third act, Ingemar would cope with not just the realities of the world but also in the fact that the world is quite complicated no matter how bad things are as it plays into Ingemar’s coming of age.

Lasse Hallstrom’s direction is very intimate for the way it plays into the life of a young boy in the late 1950s as he doesn’t go for anything that is overtly stylistic in favor of creating something that is simple. Notably in his compositions while using scenes of nighttime skies as mini-interludes where Ingemar narrates about what he’s thinking as it relates to his growing awareness of the world in general. Hallstrom’s usage of close-ups and medium shots play into that intimacy as he also creates moments that can be funny such as Ingemar trying to get a look at the naked body of a co-worker of his uncle. At the same time, there’s some sad moments as it relates to the events in the third act where Hallstrom’s approach to composition becomes far more intriguing where the sense of realism starts to loom but with something that isn’t afraid to be sentimental in everything Ingemar is coping with. Overall, Hallstrom creates a very powerful and intoxicating film about a boy coming of age during a summer with his relatives.

Cinematographer Jorgen Persson does amazing work with the film‘s gorgeous cinematography with its approach to vibrant and natural colors for the daytime scenes in the summer in the small town as well as low-key lights and natural interior lighting schemes for some of the scenes including the glass factory. Editors Christer Furubrand and Susanne Linnman do excellent work with the editing as it‘s very straightforward in terms of timing some of the film‘s humor and its dramatic moments. Production designer Lasse Westfelt, with set decorators Tove Hellbom and Pontus Lindblad, does fantastic work with the look of the small summer house that Gunnar is trying to create as well as the house he and Ulla live in plus the flying saucer that the small town kids are making.

Costume designers Susanne Falck and Inger Pehrsson do terrific work with the costumes from the look of the clothes to match with the film‘s naturalistic yet simple look. The sound work of Eddie Axberg and Goran Carmback is superb for the sparse approach to natural sound for many of the scenes in the glass factory and other nearby locations. The film’s music by Bjorn Isfalt is brilliant for its very somber yet lush orchestral score as the soundtrack features some of the pop music of the time from both Sweden and America.

The film’s incredible cast includes some notable small roles from Lennart Hjulstrom as the small-town sculptor, Jan-Philip Hollstrom as a green-haired boy named Manne, Arnold Alfredson as Manne’s grandfather, Leif Ericson as Erik and Ingemar’s uncle Sandberg who would briefly take them in, Christina Carlwind as Sandberg’s wife who is bewildered by Ingemar’s behavior, Vivi Johannson as an old woman that lives with Gunnar and Ulla, and Dirdik Gustavsson as the old woman’s husband who asks Ingemar to read him lingerie catalogs for him in complete secrecy. Other noteworthy small roles include Manne Serner as Ingemar’s older brother Erik who would often get Ingemar into trouble while Ing-Marie Carlsson is wonderful as Berit who is this beautiful glass factory worker that Ingemar has a liking to as he wants to see her naked.

Kicki Rundgren is superb as aunt Ulla who is often annoyed with a pop song that Gunnar likes as she also copes with the living situation that Ingemar has to be in. Anki Linden is excellent as Ingemark and Erik’s mother who copes with the craziness in the house as it affects her already ailing illness. Melinda Kinnaman is amazing as the tomboy Saga as a girl who likes to play soccer and boxing as she copes with the changes in her own life and physicality. Tomas von Bromssen is brilliant as uncle Gunnar as a man who is like a child himself as he cares for Ingemar while helping him cope with the realities of the world in the film’s third act. Finally, there’s Anton Glanzelius in a remarkable performance as Ingemar as he captures a lot of the exuberance and innocence of a young child who is coping with the changes in his life where there’s a sense of energy and later heartbreak that he conveys as it relates to what he’s facing.

Mitt liv som hund is a phenomenal film from Lasse Hallstrom. It’s a film that manages to more than just a simple coming of age film as it’s also a very touching story about a boy coping with changes in his life. Especially as it’s told through a sense of innocence that is rarely conveyed in films. In the end, Mitt liv som hund is an absolutely tremendous film from Lasse Hallstrom.

Lasse Hallstrom Films: (A Guy and a Gal) - (ABBA: The Movie) - (Father to Be) - (Tuppen) - (Happy We) - (The Children of Noisy Village) - (More About the Children of Noisy Village) - (Once Around) - (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape) - (Something to Talk About) - (The Cider House Rules) - (Chocolat) - (The Shipping News) - (An Unfinished Life) - (Casanova (2005 film)) - (The Hoax (2007 film)) - (Hachi: A Dog’s Tale) - (Dear John) - (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) - (The Hypnotist (2012 film)) - (Safe Haven) - (The Hundred-Foot Journey)

© thevoid99 2015


Anonymous said...

OMG, much YES! I heart this movie so much, and you're right about the intimate nature of the direction, which really makes this so powerful and yet never overbearing or preachy. This is just a beautifully woven story of growing up. Great review!

thevoid99 said...

I was watching it not expecting much but man, it blew me away as well as made me cry. That's right, I cried. I'm not ashamed to admit. It's so good.