Thursday, March 27, 2014

My Dog Killer (orig. Môj pes Killer) [2013]

MPAA (UR would be R) (3,5/10) (3 Stars)  Fr. Dennis-Zdeněk (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CSFD listing* listing

Hollywood Reporter (N. Young) review (M. Spáčilová) review* (J. Gregor) review*
Č (J. Kábrt) review*
My Dog Killer (orig. Môj pes Killer) [2013] [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*(screenplay and directed by Mira Fornayová [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*) is a Slovak and Czech co-production, starring actors/actresses from both countries and even playing-out in rolling borderlands between the to countries.  It played recently at the 17th Annual European Union Film Festival held at Chicago's Gene Siskel Film Center and the film served as Slovakia's entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Award at the Oscars.

The film, definitely not for kids, is about a troubled Slovak teen named Marek (played by Adam Mihál [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*) approaching adulthood living on the Slovakian side of the border with the Czech Republic with his uncle (played by [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*) in a small house on a field that the two have been converting into a vineyard, the house and field owned by Marek's estranged parents.  Marek's father (played by Marián Kuruc [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*) lives someways "down the hill" and "in town" (still in Slovakia), Marek's mother (played by Irena Bendová [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*) living in another, still reasonably nearby town across the border in the Czech Republic.

What's Marek doing living with his uncle in a small house with an attendant small field that the two have been converting into a vineyard and NOT with either of his parents?  We never really find out.  But it's clear that Marek's parents had separated a fair number of years back, with Marek's mother eventually packing-up and moving across the border (why? That we do eventually find out, read on).  By the time of the beginning of the story, Marek hasn't been getting along with his father either, hence living with his uncle on this property "outside of town" and yet, strangely enough still owned by his parents, who weren't talking to each other either.  Sigh ... talk about "ties that bind."

Living in such circumstances could produce anger in a teen and ... well, we see signs of that.  Marek's shaved his head, wears a hoodie and has tried to join with a local group of skinheads.

SKINHEADS? one could ask.  There'd be Czech or Slovak "Supremacists"?  Who'd they feel "superior" to?  (When I first saw this phenomenon in Prague, oh about 15 or so years ago, I honestly "didn't understand" ...)  One would think that this would be primarily an "Anglo" / "German" thing.  After all, they're the ones who've had a _whole tradition_ of considering themselves as racially superior to others...  Slavs were not exactly high on _their_ racial totem pole.  But ... as we'll soon find out, "it all makes sense" unfortunately, BECAUSE there is racial group that both Czechs and Slovaks also have a _long_ tradition of feeling superior to ... the Romas (Gypsies).  (And in the U.S., Czechs and Slovaks along with most Slavs are often among the most racist toward people of color, even as we've been looked down-upon for centuries by the "true" white people of the west. To Neville Chamberlain, we were "a people _he_ did not know" and to the Nazis to whom he sold us out to ... we were to be "renationalized" (made German) or to be(come) slaves...).

Back to the story ...;-) ... So how's it been going with joining the local skin-heads?  Not particularly well.  Though Marek himself was "all white" (indeed ghostly pale in this movie filmed in late autumn, with snow / frost already on the ground), his mother (the one living across the border in the CR) had apparently left his father for a Roma (!) and had a second son, 10-y.o. Lukášek/little Luke (played by Libor Filo [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*) with him.  This had caused enough scandal in her (and Marek's) hometown that she had to move across the border (not because the CR is any more "enlightened" when it comes to the Roma/Gypsies than Slovakia but because at least she and Lukášek's father would have been "less known" there).  So though Marek's mom had quite literally "fled the country" years ago because of this "scandal," everybody in town "knew" that Marek's mother had "run away with a Roma/Gypsy lover. 

On the other hand, Marek (and his uncle) had this dog, a pit-bull that they had given the English, foreign sounding name "Killer" (but again, the _right kind_ of foreign sounding name), guarding their house/field that they were developing into a vineyard, that, well, did impress those Skinheads, lead by their leader nicknamed Mobidyk (played by Jozef Hrnčirík [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*).  Why a local Skinhead leader nicknamed Mobidyk?  Well, again it's an ENGLISH nickname and Moby-Dick was, of course a "bid white whale." ;-)  (Even white racists can have a sense of humor at times ;-))

Well, this then is the setup of the story.  It's about a confused Slovakian teen who's angry at both of his parents, is trying to join the local skin-heads, but has a 1/2 gypsy little brother that said local skin-heads would never understand BUT he also has pit-bull named "Killer" who his friends seem to really respect.

Everything comes to a head when Marek's uncle finds out that he needs some papers signed by both of Marek's parents -- mind you, they're not talking to him, to Marek or to each other -- to do something on that property on which both he and Marek are living (and de facto squatting). 

So what does Marek's uncle do?  He sends 16-17 year old Marek on a motor scooter to talk to both of his estranged parents (Mind you, they live in different towns and, though the distances are not that far, even in different countries ... and Marek's had difficulty with both of them as well).


And ... at one point in the story, he finds himself with both his 10 year old 1/2 Gypsy little brother Lukášek/little Luke WHO ACTUALLY LIKES HIM / LOOKS UP TO HIM BECAUSE DESPITE EVERYTHING MAREK IS HIS "BIG BROTHER" ... and his dog named "KILLER" and MAREK HAS TO CHOOSE BETWEEN little Lukášek and his dog.

And sigh ...

This is one very, very sad film.  And if forces EVERYONE who sees the film to ask Marek: "How could you possibly choose that way?"

And yet, there'd be MILLIONS of Czechs and Slovaks (and there are not many of either, so we're talking about SIZABLE majorities of both populations) who'd, yes, probably would not want to choose at all, BUT if they had to ... would probably choose the way Marek did.

One heck of a film.

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