Matteo Garrone, best known for the acclaimed Gomorrah, which spawned an even more successful series, doesn’t shy away from dark themes in his latest work, Dogman. Set against the backdrop of the Italian countryside, this atmospheric tale of revenge and redemption raises the question: does this festival darling stand a chance in mainstream distribution?
Marcello operates a business that falls somewhere between a veterinary clinic and a dog salon. Content with his venture and adored by the local old-timers in Buran, he balances work, fatherhood, soccer games, and even some occasional drug dealing. However, his life becomes complicated due to his unusual friendship with Simon, a local thug whose mere presence invites trouble. Given the nature of their uneven relationship, things are bound to unravel.
What’s refreshing is the nuanced portrayal of Marcello. He’s a complex character, making it hard for the audience to decide whether to root for him until the very end. Although his foolishness adds a comedic touch—this dog lover is clearly not the sharpest tool in the shed—it also leads to some questionable decisions. These are not merely indicative of Marcello’s character but also hint at some scriptwriting inconsistencies, most glaringly in the film’s conclusion.
Stylistically, Garrone sticks to traditional festival fare: expect long takes, sometimes featuring intricate choreography, and a minimalist score. Both main actors, Marcello Fonte and Edoardo Pesce, deliver strong performances, raising the question of how much atmosphere can be generated through such restrained stylization. Regrettably, this approach doesn’t quite pay off here.
For the discerning viewer, Dogman offers several thought-provoking themes, touching on the nature of friendship and social recognition. Those less inclined towards deep reflection can still enjoy extensive footage of dog bathing, grooming, brushing, pedicures, barking (not just by the dogs), and even some realistically depicted violence towards humans. The film subtly evokes the spirit of ancient drama, with its fatalistic overtones and exaggeration, all while maintaining a social and realistic underpinning. It’s an unsettling but intriguing combination.
In conclusion, Dogman earns a cautious thumbs-up. However, be warned: it’s one of those films that you’re likely either to love or to strongly dislike.
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