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Foreign Oscar Entry Review: My Dog Killer (Môj pes Killer)

Reviews
by Carlos Aguilar
November 12, 2013 4:24 PM
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Mira Fornay's 'My Dog Killer'

My Dog Killer, Slovakia's Submission for the Academy Award Nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. U.S. : None Yet. International Sales Agent: M-Appeal World Sales UG


From an outsider's perspective it is not so easy to detect and comprehend the social interactions between the people of a foreign country. It is only when looked at from an intimate point of view that the conflicts and their unspoken rules come to the surface. And it is definitely more interesting and insightful to look at how an issue affects the daily lives of individuals than how is dealt with on paper by those in power. With such intention is how Mira Fornay explores the ethnic disputes in Slovakia, where still today gypsies are considered undesirable members of society, and in the tradition of former Nazi leaders, they are also blamed for the decline of the country's economy. In her film My Dog Killer minimal occurrences convey stronger concerns without the need of explosive depictions of violence.

Chosen as the guide for this trip into the Slovak rural landscape is Marek (Adam Mihál), a young man with a shaved head, pale, almost-albino skin and penetrating eyes, which is introduced via a long take that concisely summarizes his universe. Dutifully he helps his father (Marián Kuruc) take care of a rustic vineyard, which is their livelihood as they sell homemade wine to their neighbors. Marek's only companion is his pit bull appropriately named Killer. More than a pet he is his protector, best friend, and ultimately his accomplice in a despicable crime. Just getting by financially, Marek's father urges him to get the property deed of their apartment from his mother (Irena Bendová) to sell it and keep their land. He is not fund of the idea since his mother was forced to leave him when he was a young boy because she got involved with gypsy man, with whom she had a child named Luka (Libor Filo). Young Luka wants his  brother in his life, and the mother wants her other son too, but in a place ruled by tradition, their lives cannot merge.

Malek’s life is fractured due prejudices outside of his control. Time and time again he must prove he is part of the majority and is coerced to dissociate himself from his mother and his mixed-race half brother. He seeks validation from a local gang of skinheads that don’t accept him as an equal, but who only tolerate his presence  because of the image they think the dog provides them with. He is neither good nor evil, but he must protect himself even if that means to lack empathy for the lives of others Mihál's performance is unsettling and effective in portraying this ghostly young man disillusioned by the hatred around him. Fornay created a quiet character that exudes anger and that identifies himself with the feared prowess of his dog. As the climatic sequence of the film unfolds, one can see the animal attacks by instinct, and not purposely to inflict pain. In the same manner Malek must destroy the evidence of his unforgivable wrongdoing in an act of self-preservation.

Hidden in the background of this bleakly captivating character study are hints of a reality of resentment and discrimination that pushes many to the outskirts of society. The director intelligently places the story in a small village where secrets and gossip are difficult to escape. Therefore, even though it's clear Marek wants his mother in his life, the stigma, and her involuntary abandonment keep him away. My Dog Killer exposes the moral discrepancies between the political correct front that modern Western societies pretend to adhere by and the disturbing realty that lies underneath. Fornay uses inconspicuous TV broadcasts and casual conversations among the townspeople to speak of the Slovak past and of the dangers that segregation and ill-intentioned nationalism can produce. Intriguing and thought provoking, this is a film from a promising new director about uncomfortable truths that need to be exposed.

Read more about all the 76 Best Foreign Language Film Submission for the 2014 Academy Awards


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