© Prokino (FOX)

When Animals Dream (Når Dyrene Drømmer)
Denmark 2014

Opening 21 Aug 2014

Directed by: Jonas Alexander Arnby
Writing credits: Rasmus Birch
Principal actors: Lars Mikkelsen, Sonja Richter, Jakob Oftebro, Sonia Suhl, Mads Rilsom

Fans of the fantasy/werewolf genre will be pleased that Danish director Jonas Alexander Arnby has put some effort into helping actress Sonia Suhl cope with pre-puberty problems in the role of Marie.

Marie is a teenager and only daughter living with her parents in a house on a wide coast of Denmark. Houses are small; the sky is big; the lighting is subdued in beige; there is a haze over the land. Marie goes to work as an apprentice in a fish factory and is not amused at her welcoming initiation ceremony, where she is pushed into a vat of fish heads. Weird Danish sense of humor, but, there is little else for entertainment. She befriends a co-worker named Daniel (Jakob Oftebro). Otherwise, she leads a lonely existence, helping her father care for the mother who is in a wheel chair. Her mother (Sonja Richter) receives regular visits from the doctor – which bodes ill for him in the end. It seems that she needs treatment to suppress her tendencies to turn into some kind of creature and attack anyone unlucky enough to be near her. She also needs to have her back shaved regularly. Marie seems to have inherited these tendencies and already has a growth of light-brown fur on her bosom. She struggles with her fate. Are her strange dreams a sign that she has already become an “animal”? The villagers recognize her behavior as similar to that of her mother and begin to defend themselves from possible attacks. Her father supports her one hundred percent and says (translated), “don’t put up with any of their shit.”

In 84 minutes we see the most beautiful Danish countryside, the sea, and an old boat. We also know that we are in Scandinavia because people greet each other with the “Hey” familiar from Kurt Wallander films; otherwise text is not so important for comprehension. Cast members, as well as the fish, do their best to keep our attention, but somehow it’s all been said before, even if my stickler colleague claims to recognize great coming-of-age symbolism. “Hey,” maybe we all had our werewolf days. But, as I said, at least the fantasy film fans will be happy. (Becky Tan)

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