Posted May 7, 2017 by Chris Hick in Film Reviews

My Life as a Dog (1985) DVD Review

Lasse Hallström began his career directing Abba videos. Abba, still hugely popular and one of Sweden’s greatest exports was a band that appealed to young and old alike. Today, many of an older generation remember Abba with affection and remember their videos almost as well as they remember their songs. Some of their later songs were laced with sadness as the personal relationships of the band began to fall apart. What Abba songs did not have were simple lyrics about love and instead were much more complex than that. And so it is with My Life as a Dog.

The films is set in late 1950s rural Sweden. The world is seen through the eyes of 12-year-old Ingemar (Anton Glanzelius). He is a troubles lad who is always finding himself in trouble. He has a difficult relationship with his wily older brother who is often picking on Ingemar and gettin him into trouble. Ingemar is a very reflective young man who sees the world through certain world events. He thinks a great deal about Laika, the first dog into space who was sent into space by the Soviets, knowing that he would not return back to Earth. This fact is important to the plot and to Ingemar who says he loves his dog as much as his mother. His mother is very ill and dying of cancer (we never see his father but we are told he works in the banana business on the Equator somewhere) and is too tired to deal with the lively boy and his constant fights with his brother and getting into trouble. While his mother is very ill Ingemar is shipped off to rural Småland to stay with his aunt and uncle. He bonds well his crazy uncle. Whereas the lad might have felt isolated at home among his friends and family, it was only with a female class mate that he got on (having been caught in a compromising position with her). In Småland he begins working at his uncle’s glass works and meets and grows relationships with many of the locals including the sexy Bergit who he feels a sexual attraction to, Fransson, the man that is always repairing the roof of his house as well as many of the kids of his own age, especially the tomboy, Saga who tries to hide the fact that her boobs are growing and plays football. Ingemar’s biggest challenge comes with the death of his mother.

There is a perfect balance here in this film between humour and tragedy. But at no point is there any sentimentality. The good humour of the film is broken up with tragedy in the right places. The film was co-written by Reidar Jönsson and was, as he put it an accurate portrayal of his own upbringing. Part of the films huge success is thanks to an outstanding performance from Glanzelius as the boy, but Hallström has made an acutely sensitive and poetic portrayal of boyhood and growing up as he faces the trials of life yet retaining a childhood innocence about the world.

There are not many extras on the disc. Other than a couple of trailers there is an earlier short film about a footballer called Come on Then.

Chris Hick

Chris Hick