A slow, thoughtful and thought-provoking movie that looks at culture and class in modern Slovakia, My Dog Killer will infuriate as many people as it pleases. After a fairly dull opening, I wondered if this would be yet another movie that I regretted viewing, but things soon became engrossing and I was hooked, and then reeled in, as events unfolded.
Adam Mihal plays a young man named Marek who lives with his father (Marian Kuruc) on their family vineyard. He only seems to be happy in the company of his dog, Killer. They have a flat but it’s being sold in order to keep the vineyard running. In order to sell the flat, Marek’s father must obtain the signature from his Marek’s mother (Irena Bendova), who now lives elsewhere with Marek’s half-brother. Marek is sent with money to give to his mother in exchange for her signature. He’s ashamed of her, and the past events as they have been related to him, and his defences remain up even as his mother looks for a chance to rebuild some kind of relationship.
With his sullen expression, tattoos and hoodie, Marek may seem like an obvious young thug, but viewers quickly see that he’s protecting himself on a number of fronts – from his mother, from financial instability, from racist “friends”. The performance from Adam Mihal is a good one, believable and also strangely sympathetic. Marian Kuruc and Irena Bendova both do well as the separated parents while young Libor Filo wanders through the film, acting sweetly oblivious to the big picture around him.
Writer-director Mira Fornay has crafted something with a lot to say, but has also sensibly realised that it doesn’t all need to be screamed into the faces of audience members. She takes a cool, measured approach to the material that ultimately makes it more effective that any heavy-handed moralising. The style is very close to documentary, for the most part, with no camera flourishes or manipulative soundtrack cues to guide the viewer in a certain direction.
While it’s not an explosive movie, or even a shocking one (most of the time), it IS a tense watch on a number of occasions. It’s like a pressure cooker, simmering away. All seems safe and normal, but there’s enough in there to cause a lot of damage when you stop to think about it. That’s what makes it worth seeing, and worth thinking about afterward.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: MIRA FORNAY
STARS: ADAM MIHAL, MARIAN KURUC, LIBOR FILO, IRENA BENDOVA
RUNTIME: 90 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: SLOVAKIA/CZECH REPUBLIC