Tuesday 23 August 2016

Film: 'Wiener-dog'

I have a considerable liking for quirky films - and this one has a lot of 'quirk' in it.
(It's not to be confused, of course, with the recent film 'Weiner' - one about a creature who is capable of living only by base animal instincts, and this one about a dog.)

I never knew (or had forgotten) the American term of the film's title. Everyone in England calls this breed 'dachshund' - maybe also 'sausage dog' by some. In fact I wasn't quite sure how to pronounce 'Wiener' and was ready to ask for a ticket in the way of 'Veener-dog' (which I presume is derived from the German for 'Viennese') when I happened to see a notice at the cinema entrance explaining phonetically how to say it. (I suppose the staff were fed up with hearing it mispronounced.) 

So to the film itself, which I might have avoided, being concerned as it is with an animal which may have been portrayed as being mistreated, until I read that the dog was merely a 'device' to link four separate stories together, with greater emphasis placed on the pet's successive owners than the animal itself. 
Also, director Todd Solondz (just noticed that we share birthdays, he being younger by 13 years) is one whose name I sit up for. Although I've only managed to see a couple of works of his, both from the 1990s - 'Welcome to the Dollhouse' and 'Happiness' (ironic title!), two films I liked a lot - they are both again full of quirkiness. 

The dog owners here include some very recognisable names - Julie Delpy, Greta Gerwig, Ellen Burstyn and, perhaps in the most substantial segment, Danny de Vito as a frustrated, struggling screenwriter. Each part is about 20 minutes long, or just above, without any significant links between them other than the domestic pet itself, which gets called different names in each one. (In the final part, the invalided Burstyn has named it 'Cancer'!)

(Spoiler alert!)  There is just the one truly upsetting scene for we animal lovers, and it comes right at the end. However, there are a few seconds notice when we can guess what's going to happen and have an opportunity to look away. In addition, there are also one or two scenes earlier on involving the dog which skirt close to the edge of upset though they do not actually tip over into it. 

I liked 'Wiener-dog' a lot. I'm favourably disposed towards this kind of 'compendium' film and this one held onto my interest in all four episodes (plus a very brief 'intermission'). If you're able to cope with uncertainties regarding the dog's fate I can reassure you that apart from the one scene to which I've referred you have little else to be apprehensive about and should derive sufficient entertainment to have made for an enjoyable hour-and-a-half............7.5


  1. Our dog is, we think, part Lab part Dachshund, and I do, every so often, refer to him as "Sausage.

    1. Not as 'Wiener-dog' then? - which is the curious actual name that the little boy gives him in the first part of this film. He could have thought of something a bit cuddlier - your simple 'Sausage' would have been far preferable.

  2. Ray,
    I've heard of this movie. I probably won't see it because of the "cringe" scene involving the dog. Seems that any Hollywood film that involves an animal finds it necessary to have those scenes. In fact I can't remember ever seeing a Hollywood film that the animal didn't come to harm in some way, even "Bambi". Must be a requirement for Hollywood screenwriters when writing a movie about animals or movies involving animals. Just for once it would be refreshing to see a movie about an animal that they didn't come to some kind of harm.

    1. Completely understood, Ron. Yes. it's curious that a film featuring an animal doesn't seem to be complete unless the poor thing is shown as suffering in some way - or, as here, worse! What are the film-makers trying to tell us? Are they getting some sort of sadistic pleasure in making us mentally suffer to witness it?

      Ah, Bambi! I've written before about how the sight of Bambi losing its mother scarred me for life. When I first saw it I assumed I was alone in feeling that way. Then, on growing into adulthood, in fact when I was around 30, I found out that not only was I far from unique but that there are thousands, probably millions, of people all over the world who've had the same traumatic experience that I had watching that film. I recall wondering if Walt Disney was trying to teach us children the hard reality of life, that we will all lose someone who is precious to us, but then I questioned whether that can really be the function of film-makers. If it is it shouldn't be. I think there might be a case for charging such purveyors of witnessing needless suffering of animals with child-abuse - even adult-abuse! (Only joking of course, but there is a serious edge to this matter.)