My Life as a Dog: It's All About Perspective

So now we're watching My Life as a Dog (or "Mitt liv som hund", if you're of the Swedish persuasion), a coming-of-age tale about a young boy who lives with his uncle for a summer to give his terminally ill mother some peace and quiet.  Released in 1985, this film was nominated for two Oscars and makes it onto our list at #464.

Ingemar and his brother are a handful.  So their mother, who is terminally ill (presumably with tuberculosis), makes the decision to ship them off for the summer so that she can have some time to rest.  Erik (the brother) is sent to stay with his grandmother, while Ingemar goes off to his uncle's house.

He has a pretty good summer, all things considered.  He develops relationships with the people who live in his uncle's town, and establishes a close friendship with Saga, a girl masquerading as a boy so that she can play soccer.  Ingemar spends his days playing with his friends, learning how to box, and spying on naked women (oh, 12 year olds).  But every summer must end, and Ingemar goes home to reality and his dying mother.

When he returns home, he finds her condition much worse, and it isn't long before she has to be taken to a hospital (sanitarium?).  Just before Christmas, she dies.  And so Ingemar is sent back to live with his uncle.  But they have taken in a family of Greek boarders, and there really isn't room for the little boy is foisted onto an old lady whose husband recently died.  Ingemar asks that his uncle send for Sickan, the dog he had with living with his mother, who had been living in a kennel for several months.  He eventually discovers that the dog has died, and he feels truly alone.  Still, he reminds himself that other people have it much worse, and thinks of Laika, the dog that was sent into space aboard Sputnik and starved to death.  It's all about perspective.

But all of these things become too much for him to cope with objectively, and he has to deal with his emotions, which finally allow him to move on.

Random Musings:

  • Movie, why must you upset me in the first minute and a half?  I cried when, as a child, I first heard the story of the dog they sent up into space with no way of bringing her back down, but I had managed to block it out of my mind...until now.

  • Yeah, kid, cut your thumb open with a rusty knife for no good reason.  That's smart.  Sweetie, I don't know who you've been talking to, but making your girlfriend drink your blood doesn't mean you're married.  It means you're vampires.

  • Oh my God this poor little boy!  Seriously dude, I think everyone understood the concept of conception without you making your twelve year old brother stick his junk in a beer bottle.  Sick Swedish bastard.

  • Seriously, the older brother is pretty much the devil.  Who wakes up their little brother by firing a fake (but loud) gun at their head?  No wonder the poor kid wet himself.

  • The mom seems a little extreme, but I guess I can see where she's coming from.  She's really sick, and those boys just seem to make all this extra work for her.

  • Seriously, kid?  How did you manage to single handedly start a freaking wildfire?!  At least the dog made it...I thought for a second she was going to die in the fire, and so far she's my favorite character.  I don't know if I trust this kennel...something tells me this is the kind of movie where the dog gets it to show that Life Isn't Fair and Sometimes Innocent Animals Die Horrible Deaths.

  • Is this creepy old man seriously having Ingemar read him bra ads?  That's all kinds of weird.

  • Umm...maybe riding a unicycle isn't the best thing to be doing while there's tons of men carrying around flaming hot pieces of glass.  Just saying.

  • By the way, where the uncle this an IKEA factory?  Because that would be cool.

  • I am so intrigued by this androgynous little girl.  What a great, interesting character.

  • And I am officially jealous that they have a fake spaceship rigged up to play in.  If I had one of those, I would be in it right now.

  • I don't want to come off as Judge-y McJudgerson, but if I was terminally ill, I think I would want to spend some time with my kids, not send them away.  Unless she's worried that they would catch her tuberculosis (that would make sense, but the way they presented it made it seem like the boys were just annoying and she didn't want to deal with them.)

  • Holy crap, Ingemar!  You just fell through a skylight trying to see a naked woman.  That's what you just did.  Sweetie, they have magazines for that sort of thing.  There's no reason to throw yourself through a window!

  • I'm having a hard time with this mother.  You just sent your kids away for the whole summer, your little boy is trying to tell you a story, and you interrupt him to ask if you can read a book instead of listening to him?  Nice.  Great parenting.

  • OMG can we please stop talking about the dog that starved in Sputnik?  Please?

  • And who is this little blonde bitch who tells Ingemar that it was good for their mother to have time away from the boys?  Who the hell are you?  And who says that to a little boy!?!

  • "Mom, what would you like for Christmas?" he asked his dying mother, who definitely isn't going to make it to Christmas.

  • Oh my God, this kid just lost his mother, he has to move in with his uncle, and they're already trying to foist him off on an old lady?  Give the kid a chance to breathe!  And how sad is it that Ingemar and his brother are pretty much estranged now?  I mean, I didn't really like him that much, but family's family.

  • So Ingemar and the old lady basically sleep in the same bed?  This makes me uncomfortable.

  • Aw, I love awkward little kid sexual tension.

  • No!  I knew it!  Those bastards killed off Sickan!

  • Is it really common for Swedish homes to have skylights?  I'm noticing that even the little summer house has one.

So that's My Life as a Dog.  Like many Swedish films, (nothing like a great big sweeping generalization, right?) its greatest strength is its low key, natural style of storytelling.  The honesty and lack of overstatement make it emotionally effective.  I like the recurring theme of perspective.  Ingemar always tries to think of things that make the tragedies of his life seem not as bad by comparison.  As immature as Ingemar comes off sometimes, that's actually a pretty mature way of looking at things.  I loved the scene at the end where he breaks down and wonders if he killed his mother, because honestly...that's how pretty much everyone has made him feel.  Like he was a burden on her.  He had been trying to keep a distance from his mother's death, so he could maintain his precious perspective, but this emotional release is what finally allows him to begin to heal.

I loved Saga.  I would have wanted her as a friend when I was a kid.  She was just so bright and friendly and supremely self confident, even though she was concerned about growing up, because that meant that she wouldn't be able to pass as a boy anymore.  In the end, she accepts that she is changing and doesn't try to fight it.  I just found her so interesting, and I loved the relationship between her and Ingemar.  Especially that lovely shot at the end when everyone in town is freaking out about the boxing match, and she and Ingemar are passed out together on the couch.

That's it for me.  Thanks for reading, and come back tomorrow for the rumble between two male dance companies.  You know what that means.  West Side Story.

Want to know more about the Top 1000 List?  Check it out and see if your favorites are here! They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?

  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • RSS


Post a Comment

Blog Directory