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My Life as a Dog (1985)

Cast: Anton Glanzelius, Anton Glanzelius, Anki Liden, more...
Director: Lasse Hallström, Lasse Hallström
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Rating:
Studio: Fox Lorber
Genre: Foreign, Scandinavia, Coming of Age , Dysfunctional Families
Running Time: 101 min.
Languages: English
Subtitles: English
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This title is currently out of print.

Synopsis
In 1959 Sweden, young Ingemar (Anton Glanzelius) lives with his dying mother and his nasty older brother. He survives all of life's knocks by comparing himself to those who are worse off--such as Laika, the little Russian space dog who was rocketed to his death and had nothing to say in the matter. Ingemar begins to identify with Laika more and more as his mother's health deteriorates, at times dropping to all fours and baying at the moon. When his mother is advised to get some peace and quiet away from her children, Ingemar is sent to live with his loveable uncle and aunt. For the first time, the boy is surrounded by relatives and classmates who pose no threat and who genuinely like him. He even has a sexual awakening. When his mother dies, he no longer rationalizes his misfortunes by comparing himself to those less fortunate; from now on, he can conjure up pleasant memories of his summer away from home to sustain him through the hard times. My Life as a Dog (Mitt Liv Som Hund) is based on the autobiographical novel by Reidar Jonsson. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Special Features:

  • Shall We Go to My or Your Place or Each Go Home Alone? (1973) - A 52-minute film by Lasse Hallstrom
  • New video interview with Hallstrom
  • Reflections on My Life as a Dog by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Essay by film critic Michael Atkinson
  • Theatrical Trailer


GreenCine Staff Pick: Chris Sullivan in the Independent (UK) recently praised My Life as a Dog as "one of the greatest films about childhood that has ever been made," and, while that could be overstating the case, I won't argue. Lasse Hallström has since gone on to make several successful Hollywood films but it was with this film that he earned his reputation and it is this film that remains his most resonant. Set in 1950s Sweden, it's the tale of young Ingemar (a remarkable Anton Glazelius), his mother terminally ill with tuberculosis, who is separated from his brother to live with relatives. Add to this the fact that he has to temporarily put his dog in a kennel, along with the natural confusion inherent with being on the cusp of puberty, and you have some turmoil. He empathizes with poor Laika, the Russian dog-turned-Cosmonaut, although one hopes he won't meet the same fate ("They put her in space. I don't think she felt so good about it. She went round and round until her doggy bag was empty. Then she starved to death," he narrates in one of his soliloquies in the film). But he soon finds himself distracted by his new surroundings, and in particular by the tomboyish Saga - their budding friendship only adding to his confusion. The film is episodic in nature, building whatever narrative momentum it has on smaller events, going for atmosphere and character over huge moments, but Hallstrom seamlessly blends humor and tragedy in what amounts to an incredibly poignant coming of age evocation.

Also available in the original DVD version, which is fine, too, but the Criterion disc has a superior high-definition digital transfer supervised by the director and improved English subtitle translation, as well as a 1973 short film by Hallstrom. -- Craig Phillips


GreenCine Member Reviews

A boy and a dog by SBergfalk February 15, 2006 - 10:33 AM PST
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Despite the sadness of this film, I enjoyed the character development and the relationships it explored. A boy, a dog, a brother, and a sick mom. Lasse Hallstrom does a lot with a little, shaping an emotionally complex film that will make you laugh and cry. If you like this film, you should also see Ponette, since it explores similar themes.




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