L’animale (translates, unsurprisingly, as The Animal)
Director: Katharina Mückstein
Writer: Katharina Mückstein
Cast: Sophie Stockinger, Kathrin Resetarits, Dominik Warta, Julia Franz Richter, Jack Hofer, Dominic Marcus Singer, Simon Morzé, Stefan Pohl
Seen on: 17.3.2018
Mati (Sophie Stockinger) loves nothing more than to ride around on dirt bikes with her (male) friends, above all Sebastian (Jack Hofer). They are loud and brash and cause trouble in the area. But shortly before her final exam in school, Mati is thrown for quite a loop when Sebastian confesses that he is in love with her and Mati meets the older Carla (Julia Franz Richter) who she is drawn to. Both of these things threaten Mati’s standing with her guy friends and force her to make decisions.
I really liked L’animale, even though it gets a little too on the nose with its parallels and metaphors at times. But it’s a strong, emotional, well-made and queer coming-of-age film – and there can never be enough of those.
L’animale does many things very right. There is the slow, careful approach to Mati’s sexual orientation that leaves her enough room to figure things out for herself. And even if the ending isn’t entirely happily romantic, there is room for it. Mati’s figuring out is mirrored by her father’s (Dominik Warta) own questioning when he feels drawn to a male co-worker. And even though I liked how the film handled that subplot, that parallel was a little much for me – I think I would have preferred it if the film had stuck with Mati or had the father questioning something other than his sexual orientation.
Especially it isn’t the only time that the film feels a little heavy-handed (the bird being another example), although at other times it remains overly vague. Since it’s otherwise so clear and sensitive in its observations, those moments become more jarring than they would have been in a film of lesser quality.
Because, don’t get me wrong, this is a really good film. It has many things to say and I could take away a lot from it. It has a great cast – Stockinger is amazing, but Hofer and Richter impressed me, too. And it is shot beautifully.
The only thing that I thought was really a mistake was that the Italian song “L’animale” that is obviously so important to the film that it doesn’t just gives it its title, but that the characters in the film actually get to sing it in a sequence that steps out of the narrative – that song didn’t get any subtitles, at least not in the screening I saw. And when a song is so important that you put the lyrics into your characters’ mouths, there really should be subtitles. Especially when the song is in a different language from the rest of the film.
But that is just a formality in a film that I found utterly engrossing otherwise. I was involved in the story and the characters from beginning to end and very glad to have seen it.