My Life as a Dog (Mitt Liv Som Hund) (1985)

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Released 5-Dec-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-The 400 Blows, Les Diaboliques
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1985
Running Time 97:33
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Lasse Hallström
Studio
Distributor
Svensk Filmindustri
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Anton Glanzelius
Tomas von Brömssen
Anki Lidén
Melinda Kinnaman
Kicki Rundgren
Lennart Hjulström
Ing-Marie Carlsson
Leif Ericson
Christina Carlwind
Ralph Carlsson
Viveca Dahlén
Arnold Alfredson
Fritz Elofsson
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Björn Isfält


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Swedish Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Paving the way for Oscar-baiting literary adaptations Chocolat, The Cider House Rules, and the recent Casanova, Lasse Hallström burst on to the international film scene (that is, finally managed to get Hollywood to sit down and look at a subtitled film) with his 1985 coming of age tale, My Life as a Dog. An optimistic and glossy veneer on all of his films marks Hallström off from Sweden's other great export, Ingmar Bergman (the "Bergman's successor" title must surely belong to Lukas Moodyson), but at the same time makes his work just a little more palatable for the tastes of the all important middle-class American market. More often than not, the shine hides a level of manipulation: his most popular films are designed to put a tear in your eye or bounce in your step, and though they may succeed in doing so, the core of each film is ultimately hollow.

    Of all Hallström's films, though, My Life as a Dog manages to rise above overt sentimentality and keep the manipulation (relatively) under control - which is not to suggest that you won't be touched or even finish the film a little misty-eyed. The key is the unmarred innocence and simplicity embodied in the pitch perfect performance of main character Ingemar (Anton Glanzelius). Glanzelius' acting is so natural that you could easily forget you are watching a film and the same can be said of all the child actors involved: no pretentious graduates from the Dakota Fanning school of acting here.

    Ingemar is convinced that his father is in Africa loading bananas on a dock ("someone's got to load the bananas") and is aware, although not entirely convinced, that his mother (Anki Lidén) is dying. His older brother spends his time sharing his vast knowledge amongst the local children and firing his BB gun at all and sundry. As their mother becomes increasingly ill and emotionally unstable, the boys are separated and sent to live with relatives. Ingemar finds himself in a small factory town with an uncle and aunt and encounters all the markers of growing up: sex, death, isolation, friendship, and perhaps love. No matter how things go, Ingemar tries to view his life objectively - things are not near as bad as they were for Russian space-dog Laika, for example, who died a lonely and hungry death in a small satellite. But, as Michael Atkinson (no relation) notes in his essay for the Criterion release of My Life as a Dog, Ingemar's self awareness comes with the tragic realisation that, to his mother and other adults, he is on par with his dog Sikan - "subject to the heartless whims of grown ups."

    Widely and poorly imitated, My Life as a Dog remains one of the freshest takes on childhood and a minor film classic: even the most hardened of cynics are bound to be softened by Ingemar's adventures. It's a shame that Hallström has lost his touch and an even greater shame that Glanzelius has all but disappeared from film. But then again, anything either could attempt after My Life as a Dog would only ever appear as something of a lesser achievement. My Life as a Dog is a near perfect film experience.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Decent marks for Umbrella's video transfer. My Life as a Dog is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1, 16x9 enhanced. To clarify, though, the video is framed at 1.78:1 and vertical black bars left and right maintain the original framing for the actual image. I don't believe that any cropping has occurred.

    Sharpness is good, but not perfect by any means: long and medium shots are just a little too soft. There is general glow to the whole image. Shadow detail is average and blacks are noisy. Night exteriors and darkly lit scenes are especially noisy and grain is visible throughout. The images of stars are particularly noisy, exhibiting variations in brightness and introducing unsightly blues into the image. Colour is rendered naturally throughout.

    I noticed a little aliasing (14:45) and very rare instances of posterization. Some wobble is visible in the opening credits. Frames appear to have been dropped at 3:30 and 59:10. The source print is very clean: there is almost no dirt visible.

    Yellow English subtitles are included. I cannot comment on their accuracy (I don't speak Swedish) but they are well timed and placed. The film is divided into 24 chapters.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio transfer is decidedly average. A single Swedish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track is included.

    Dialogue is audible but accompanied by constant hiss, especially obvious in the voiceover narration. Audio sync is accurate. Audio dropouts occur several times: brief though the dropouts are, they are certainly noticeable.

    The beautiful score for My Life as a Dog was composed by Björn Isfält. A simple piano theme is central and captures the whimsy of the film perfectly.

    No surround or subwoofer information is included in the mono track.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio

Theatrical Trailer

    A 16x9 enhanced trailer that reveals just a little too much of the plot.

Trailer

    16x9 trailers for Truffaut's The 400 Blows and Clouzot's Les Diabolques. Both in French (subtitles on The 400 Blows).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    My Life as a Dog is available in Region 1 (technically, it's region free) in a director approved edition from Criterion. Screen captures show a better transfer and reviews don't mention any problems with audio. Extra features include Hallström's television film Shall We Go to My Place or Your Place or Each Go Home Alone (1973 - 52 minutes); a video interview with Hallström; reflections on the film by author Kurt Vonnegut; theatrical trailer. NTSC format.

    Two releases are available in Region 2 UK. The older Momentum release is non-anamorphic and has no extras. Video quality is apparently poor.

    The more recent Arrow release is framed at 1.76:1 and offers a mild improvement in video quality. Sound quality seems fairly consistent across both releases.

    The Region 1 Criterion release is clearly the version to go with.

Summary

    A touching film without overt sentimentality and a refreshing depiction of childhood.

    Video is average.

    Audio is adequate.

    Extras are practically absent.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Adam Atkinson (read my bio)
Friday, March 03, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-S336, using Component output
DisplayLG Flatron Widescreen RT-28FZ85RX. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V357
SpeakersDB Dynamics Belmont Series: Fronts: B50F, Centre: B50C, Rears: B50S, Sub: SW8BR

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