Wiener-Dog is Todd Solondz’s odd creation. It bears little resemblance to anything I’ve ever seen,it’s as if it was made entirely for the love of art and art itself. On the surface, it’s an anthology film with 4 distinctly different stories all connected by the character’s respective ownership of a wiener-dog. At first, Wiener-dog seems almost too cosmetic. The dog imagery feels try-hard…like the director is trying to be too wry for his own good. But soon enough, I realize wiener-dog is just a lens through which we follow the characters – The only constant right smack in the middle of Solondz’s tragicomedy. As he subverts the very idea of a metaphor, Solondz’s one canine symbol veils no hidden significance, but spotlights even greater complexity to his stories.
Wiener-Dog is quite a fascinating watch. It resembles Wild Tales only in the black humour part and is essentially different in every other way. In the Argentinian Best Foreign Film nominee 2015, it’s characters faced preposterous circumstances. One of it’s themes was the world that seemed to revolve in a Kafka-esque doldrum; The absurdity of bureaucracy is satirized in ways that tickle and tug at our heart-strings.
Wiener-Dog isn’t quite the same. It is more mundane,less extreme and more subtle about its message. There are long periods of no-talk, and static scenes with slow-mo and scenes devoid of action. In a sense, it is less flashy. But one could also argue that the subtlety gives it a more introspection…it’s a real-as-you-can get kind of thing. Wiener-dog (damn the title sounds weirder everytime I type it out) is also not really about the ‘system’ at all. Themes revolve around life,regrets,death and decay among other things. Except for the first story(which is kind of cluttered), the next three that featured Greta Gerwig,Danny DeVito and Ellen Burstyn respectively had captivating performances that impressed me.
Gerwig’s measured acting has an understated quality. Here,she’s not even at the center of the drama. Instead,her character floats in coincidentally…and with just and expression or two,her thoughts immediately demand the same emotional investment from us. DeVito and Burstyn’s stories are more traditional. They are the centre of their own troubles and each is distinctly heart-wrenching.
Perhaps the greatest thing about Wiener-dog is that it isn’t crazy in the slightest bit. It doesn’t make bold statements. Solondz and his actors place their trust in us to appreciate life’s ebb and flow without dolling it up. At first, I thought I had problems with the movie but I don’t think I do (save for the first story maybe, it didn’t really have the impact or message of the next three). I’m just thankful that I’ve finally seen a film that leaves most things unsaid and finds art in still life. And throw in a cute wiener-dog that may or may not mean something…It’s really up to you 🙂