MIFF 2016: Heart of a Dog (2015)

Director: Laurie Anderson

Another documentary where you think it is going to be about one thing, in this case Laurie Anderson’s dog Lolabelle, but turns out to be about many other things along the way and it takes its own way there no matter what you expect it is going to do.

Even though it was made after the death of Ms Anderson’s long-time partner Lou Reed there is no mention of that in the documentary except for the dedication at the end. The dog is the vessel of telling the story in this case and a lot of things are not really spelled out in the story.

There is a lot of philosophy and Buddhist teachings talked about during the documentary, even when it does seem a bit imposing such as just after showing Lolabelle passing away “In the Tibetan book of the dead crying is forbidden” just as if the director is admonishing the audience for crying.

I did like the continuation of the teaching saying that if you think of someone who passes away instead of crying you are meant to do something kind or give something away. “But I think of her all the time, I would be giving stuff away all the time” “So?”

There were some very cute scenes of the dog playing the piano and making artworks and recreations by other dog actors of important scenes from the dog’s life such as “they can come from the sky” and how dogs afraid of hawk attacks were the same as people afraid of terrorists crashing planes into buildings after 9/11.

I did enjoy the creative visual storytelling with the animation and film loops. The one of the dream of the director and her dog at the start was funny and strange at the same time.

It did seem a bit odd that the director almost negated her own story by telling the story of her stay in the hospital as a teenager and then said that long winded stories that don’t go anywhere are like torture. It is true that no one is 100% factual about telling their own stories as you always leave out something or add something to it depending on the point of the story.

This was a very strange and challenging work and I will have to think about it for some time before I really understand it. I might want to watch it again but probably not for a while as I want to let this viewing be fully absorbed first.

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