(Re-posted from Jeremy's Rotterdam Roundup.)
Dogs felt like a strong theme amongst this year's Tiger competitors, but in La mujer de los perros they play their most prominent role. This near-wordless meditative drama follows a reclusive woman—played by co-director Verónica Llinás—who lives in an abandoned shack along with a pack of 10 or 15 wild dogs. The dogs follow our wordless protagonist everywhere, even in her frequent forays into town to scrounge and steal supplies from wherever she can.
Wednesday, April 13, 7:00 pm
Thursday, April 14, 7:00 pm
Directors: Laura Citarella, Verónica Llinás
Producer: Mariano Llinás
Writers: Laura Citarella, Verónica Llinás
Cinematographer: Soledad Rodríguez
Editor: Ignacio Masllorens
Music: Juana Molina
Cast: Verónica Llinás, Juliana Muras, Germán de Silva, Juana Zalazar
The camerawork is relaxed, mostly handheld and often claustrophobically close, giving the whole experience a poetic feeling rather than a realist one. This feral figure's alienation from society shines a subtle spotlight on the cruelty of that world, especially when they interact; a group of kids shoot at her with a slingshot and call her a "crazy old witch" until her dogs scare them off. She only really seems to be able to communicate or empathize at all with her pack, often staring blankly at those humans who talk to her, then fearfully escaping at the first opportunity.
The narrative progression feels very animalistic, like it is truly written from a dog's perspective. It's almost preverbal, with little action actually taking place, but at the same time it is very emotional. At any moment there is a strong impression of what is happening and why it matters, but verbalizing those moments is a challenge. Often we find her looking on in wonder at peculiarities of the human world, like a big dirt bike rally taking place in a nearby parking lot.
Where the film fails is not in its intention, but in its performance. Llinás, for all her directorial skill, fails to give the impression of someone who can survive in the wild. Little things, like her carefully shaved legs and armpits, or her clumsy inability to start a fire belie her true nature—a film director, not a wild woman. The whole enterprise gets at something beautiful, a dog's-eye-view of the kino eye, but only if you can close your eyes to its central figure's incongruities.