SLAMDANCE 2020 FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW! Nadia Bedzhdanova’s dreamlike oddity Beware of Dog is bound to infuriate some viewers due to its disjointed narrative structure. Stick with it though, and you’ll be left with a lingering sense of melancholy, its music, and images burrowing themselves into the recesses of your mind. By no means perfect, Bedzhdanova’s film manages to be something more important: it’s original and wildly ambitious, reaching for profundity, if not exactly grasping it. In a cinematic world that seems content with pandering to the lowest common denominator, that by itself makes Beware of Dog worthy of a recommendation.
The film is split into three storylines, each protagonist struggling from a severe affliction. Marina (Marina Vasileva), a young woman who lives in Moscow, struggles with severe OCD. Her bipolar cousin Paula (Paula Knüpling), an anthropology student, lives in Berlin. And then there’s Mike (Buddy Duress), an ex-boxer in New York, doing what he can to fight his alcohol addiction.
“… the film is split into three storylines, each protagonist struggling from a severe affliction.”
The tumultuous sociopolitical backdrop of Marina’s setting could potentially be blamed for her condition. In Marina’s claustrophobic world, everything has to be counted; every other action repeated a certain number of times. Her douchebag boyfriend, Sasha (Pavel Tabakov), doesn’t want to deal with her neurosis, blankly telling her to take care of it. A doctor writes her a Zoloft prescription. “It’s time for you to give birth,” the doctor says. “Not count steps.” She finds respite in nature, in water, and in applying to NYU, for she’s a class valedictorian, who can memorize “300 pages a day”.
In the meantime, Paula meets the pink-haired Joanna (Marina Prados) from Barcelona and immediately falls for her. Joanna feels the instant connection as well and also swoons. However, their lack of communication eventually leads to separation. Paula proceeds to shave her head and cause a ruckus during family lunch. Will she allow herself to deteriorate, or divulge her inhibitions to the one person who seems to truly get her?
"…original and wildly ambitious, reaching for profundity, if not exactly grasping it..."