Dog Days

Hundstage

Director: Ulrich Seidl
Year: 2001
Country: Austria
Running time: 121 mins
Austria

Production co: Allegro Film Produktion
Producers: Helmut Grasser, Philippe Bober
Screenplay: Ulrich Seidl, Veronika Franz
Photography: Wolfgang Thaler
Editors: Andrea Wagner, Christof Schertenleib
Production designers: Andreas Donhauser, Renate Martin
Costume designer: Sabine Volz
Sound: Ekkehart Baumung
In German with English subtitles

Cast
Hitchhiker: Maria Hofstätter
Teacher: Christine Jirku
Her lover: Victor Hennemann
Lucky: Georg Friedrich
Alarm man: Alfred Mrva
Old man: Erich Finsches
Housekeeper: Gerti Lehner
Klaudia: Franziska Weiss
Mario: René Wanko
Ex-wife: Claudia Martini
Ex-husband: Victor Rathbone

Festivals: Venice, Toronto, Vancouver, London 2001; Rotterdam, New Directors/New Films, Cannes (Critics’ Week) 2002
It’s a credit to the commanding direction of… Ulrich Seidl that the entirety of his new feature Dog Days looks and feels totally unscripted… A loosely connected episodic goings-on of two days in an Austrian suburb, the film is a staggering panoply of emotional degradation and misogynistic behavior that’s self-assured and, at times, devastating filmmaking… Instead of the particularly Teutonic humiliation being used to make the audience complicit in the horrors of cinematic violence, Seidl… expresses the senselessness of human vanity, the mortal sin from which all others arise. In Dog Days, this is established early and often by an endless parade of crisply photographed, sometimes corpulent, sunbathers cooking themselves in 35-degree weather. Barely distinguishable from animals, Seidl sees humans as only separate in their propensity to construct master/slave relationships with each other where hate, not love, is directed from master to slave. In Dog Days, people (often, men) treat others (often, women) the way they would never dare to treat their pets. (One wonders how Seidl directs his actors.) When they do love each other – and love exists, though, as one character dialectically opines, it makes people hate – it manifests itself in ways involving the humiliation of both partners. Since society engenders suspicion, trust is something that must be earned, and Seidl’s characters achieve this by establishing strict rules in their personal lives…

Only by the end do we realize that Dog Days has been carefully organized into six interactions that have their own logical development where each coupling comes to a confrontational head: a stripper and her abusive boyfriend (who only appear in two sequences, at the film’s beginning and mid-point); a fat retiree who enjoys gardening and his old maid; a divorced couple living in the same house; a batty, female savant who hitches rides with strangers; an S/M relationship involving a teacher, a corpulent thug, and his jealous friend; and a security guard on the beat in the housing complex where the characters reside…

Rather than attributing their perverse behaviour to past events – though the loss of a child has stultified the relations between the cohabitating exes – Seidl sees perversity as an innate part of a fallen humanity. And rather than moralizing, he feels pathos. The most tender moment of Dog Days finds the fat gardener, Mr Walther, crouched over his poisoned pet, his hair delicately ruffled by his housekeeper who, moments earlier, performed a rather grotesque striptease.” — Mark Peranson, Cinema Scope, 9/01

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