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ANIMAL LOVE

Austria, 1995 (MIFF 1996, Documenta)

Director: Ulrich Siedl

Lonely lives consumed by an almost unnatural passion for pets! Child substitute, surrogate lover, plaything, pawn in relationship power struggles, the whole notion of innocent puppy love gets left far behind in this truly disturbing look at the desperate human need for companionship.

From the two old bastards with their new purchase of an increasingly erratic and vicious mutt, to the well-heeled woman who wines and dines her pedigree doggy date, from young homeless men begging with a bunny (a sure-fire sympathy getter), to the ugly couple fighting over who fractured the ferret; from the decidedly odd rituals of a pet funeral, to the even stranger rigours of sexual congress; humour turns to horror as the lineaments of sublimated, twisted desire draw you into a bizarre world where all fellow-feeling becomes suspect and an almost bestial evil seems to lurk behind every motive. Animal Love is ambushed by a cruelty that reigns on both sides of the camera With lacerating faux detachment director Ulrich Seidl lets his human sublets perform—and they often do like sideshow grotesques—walking a dangerously fine line in victimisation that is as enthralling as it is appalling

In this tawdry tale of the emotionally undernourished 'talking to the animals' becomes a dialogue with the damned rather than a date with Dr. Doolittle. (AH)

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