Film Festival Movie Review

Film Review: WHEN ANIMALS DREAM: A Unique & Limited Tale [LFF 2014]

Sonia Suhl When Animals Dream

When Animals Dream (2014Film Review from the 58th Annual BFI London Film Festival, a movie directed by Jonas Alexander Arnby, starring Sonia SuhlLars MikkelsenSonja Richter, Jakob OftebroMads RiisomGustav Dyekær Giese, Esben Dalgaard, Stig Hoffmeyer, and Benjamin Boe Rasmussen.

A young woman’s life changes completely when she learns her family’s darkest secret. When Animals Dream is as strange and fantastic as the title implies. Writer Rasmus Birch has created a story so brilliantly bizarre that it’s a wonder this film hasn’t received the exposure it very well deserves. This isn’t your typical werewolf film.

Sonia Suhl plays Marie, a shy nineteen year old, who grows up in a remote fishing village with her father, and comatose mother. Her life seems normal if un-eventful, that is, until everything she knows to be real is flipped on its head. Suhl brings naivety and innocence to her character. These traits were vital in helping her build a relationship with the audience. Suhl’s reactions and genuine worry help sell the idea of a confused woman. Her ability to show strength while being able to project a vulnerable side was impressive to say the least.

Marie’s ‘transformation’ unearths several deep emotional issues which most werewolf films seem to glance over. This film is more of an emotional journey than a horror/sci-fi film. The existence of a werewolf type creature is more of an allegory for change i.e. in the end, only through acceptance can we actually move forward.

The first signs of trouble begin to appear relatively early on in the film. Marie, in her own way, beings to realize something is wrong. Strange patches of hair begin to emerge from her chest, and it just gets weirder from there. I really enjoyed Marie’s response to the change; it was a mixture of fear and anger. A reaction I felt was, perhaps, the most realistic response anyone in that situation would/could have. Her words and body language seemed to be at odds, her words tried to show bravery, while her body motions indicated uneasiness. It was the subtlety in her performance that made her scenes stand-out.

Despite being made for a reported $5.5 Million, this film doesn’t bear the marks of a project that was low-budgeted. Quite the contrary, this film uses sharp dialogue and exquisite chemistry between the cast to build up the suspense for the final third. The fast paced nature of the film allows for a considerable amount of storytelling to be squeezed into 84 minutes. Unfortunately, that’s what parts of this film feel like. It feels like too much was squeezed in and doesn’t quite fit in properly. The characters were developed fairly well, it just seems that an extra scene or two could have perhaps given more context to the family’s back-story, or perhaps given some insight into some of the more periphery characters.

Overall, the film was an admirable first attempt by the director. There were certainly parts of the film that could have been improved upon. The casting was close to perfect, as was the cinematography, the score wasn’t too bad, and the story was fascinating. The downside was the short run-time. It also didn’t help that the films CGI budget was what it was.  Having said all that, I still think the film is worth watching and unique in its own way.

Rating: 6/10

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Subhan Ghani

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