Saturday, 12 May 2018

Isle of Dogs (4 Stars)

I don't often watch animated films, but this stop-motion animated film directed by Wes Anderson is an exception. I heard about the film months ago, and I could have watched it at the Stuttgart Nights Festival, but I decided to skip it. I only found out last week that Wes Anderson is the director, after which I immediately added it to my must-watch list.

In the introduction we're told of a feud that has been going on for millennia. Japan was once ruled by dogs. The Kobayashi clan fought a long battle to gain control. After defeating the dogs they introduced a system of dog training, so that dogs would be obedient and never again take control.

In the present day a canine flu breaks out. Mayor Kobayashi of Megasaki City (a fictional city located on a Japanese island) uses this as a pretext to end the cohabitation with dogs. He signs a decree to deport all dogs to Trash Island, a nearby artificial island created by dumping garbage in the sea. In their new home the dogs become wild and unhealthy, dividing themselves into gangs.

After two years Atari Kobayashi, the adopted son of the mayor, steals a plane and flies to Trash Island to search for his dog. What he doesn't know is that his father is about to implement a Final Solution to kill all the dogs on Trash Island.

Despite scattered comic interludes I wouldn't call the film a comedy. On the other hand, it would be going too far to call it a parable. In that respect it's typical for Wes Anderson's films. He doesn't make it easy for the viewers. We're never sure whether he wants us to laugh or not.

The voices for the animated characters are provided by some of Hollywood's leading actors, in particular Bryan Cranston and Scarlett Johansson. Technically it's unnecessary to hire big name actors for voice-only roles in animated films, but it's become common in order to boost the box office takings. I already knew who the actors were before I went to the cinema, but I had difficulty recognising them.

I enjoyed the film, but I doubt I shall watch it again.

When I left the cinema there was a lot of noise on the street. I soon figured out that it was due to Stuttgart's football team, VFB Stuttgart, beating Bayern München, the league champions, 4 – 1 in the last game of the season. That's good news for the Stuttgarters. After being in the premiere league since 1977, VFB Stuttgart was relegated to the second division in 2016. The club was promoted back to the premiere league in 2017, and this year the club has finished in 7th place out of 18. That's an average position, but the honour of a big win over the seemingly unbeatable Bayern München makes them feel like the real winners.

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