'The Dog Who Wouldn't Be Quiet': A Visually Rich Exploration Of Economic Inequality [Sundance Review]

Literally opening, as the title implies, with “The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet,” Argentinian director Ana Katz’s melancholic rumination on the life of Sebastian (Daniel Katz, the filmmaker’s brother), a languishing writer turned migrant worker, is a visually stunning, but oftentimes opaque experiment. Filmed in lush black and white, with animated interludes used to portray the more devastating aspects of Sebastian’s life, Katz’s film unfurls as a series of vignettes. Beginning just as Sebastian’s relatively stable life is upended by his neighbors, who complain about the titular dog, Katz quickly moves to Sebastian’s work, where he is let go because he has been bringing the dog to work with him. 

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From there, the two move from job to job as Sebastian attempts to stabilize his life, taking on work wherever he can. If Katz initially teases out a more linear story, in which Sebastian attempts to take control of his depression and reject stasis by embracing a transient lifestyle, with the dog serving as an apt, but nonetheless obvious, physical manifestations of his depression, “The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet” quickly moves away from such simplistic metaphorical interpretations. Instead, within her exceedingly short film (running a total of 73 minutes), Katz moves through time using dream logic, often jumping weeks, months, and years into the future as Sebastian struggles to find stability.  

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By the time the film reaches its literal quasi-apocalyptic ending, in which the world’s air quality has deteriorated so much that everyone is either forced to wear bubble-shaped air purifiers or, if they cannot afford those, walk below four feet from the ground, “The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet” ventures well beyond the initial indie character study that it is in the first few minutes. Instead, Katz crams her film full of allegory, centralizing the plight between urban and rural environments, and corporate and agricultural practices, showcasing how Sebastian can move between these binary lifestyles. It is a remarkably dense film that never really gives enough oxygen to a single idea, creating some memorable vignettes, but never a cohesive whole. Sebastian’s characteristics are dependent on the environment he is in. By the time he has fallen in love and had a child, coinciding with the meteoric strike that degrades the air, he’s just as much of an enigma as in the first scene. 

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What narrative and metaphoric purpose that apocalyptic event serves is clouded. Yet for all its frustrating thematic impenetrability, “The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet” is a visual marvel, showcasing a textured Argentina through remarkable black and white photography, with an astonishing five credited cinematographers (Gustavo Biazzi, Guillermo Nieto, Marcel Lavintman, Fer Blanc, and Joaquin Neira) deftly moving between the fields that Sebastian tills to the enclosed workspaces that he eventually occupies. Further, simplistically animated sequences are utilized as Sebastian copes with a series of traumatic events, including a devastating one involving the dog, centralizing his inertia as he contends with progress pushing him towards a certain kind of lifestyle.

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While “The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet” is awash in ideas about the relationship between work and identity, as well as the connection between health care and financial stability, Katz never foregrounds these ideas within a coherent narrative, leading to a grab bag of thematic interests untethered from character development. Even still, “The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet” is a visually realized film with perhaps too much on its mind for its limited runtime. [B-]

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