"Revenge Is Hollow and Unsatisfying"
DOGMAN is the Italian movie that received the Best Actor prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, a story about a dog groomer who decides to exact revenge against a brutish thief who terrorizes the community and who let him take the rap for a burglary. DOGMAN is a stark revenge tale, with lots of strong foul language and some bloody violence, but it shows that revenge can be unsatisfying, especially when taken too far.
Marcello (Marcello Fonte) is the unassuming dog groomer and dog boarder in a small, rundown coastal community. His friends are the owners of the businesses next door to Marcello’s. Marcello listens quietly as they complain about their lives each morning. One of their complaints is the local bully, a brutish ex-boxer named Simone. One man suggests they should have Simone killed, but another man argues that someone’s going to kill Simone eventually anyway, so why should they stick out their necks? Of course, Marcello is one of Simone’s favorite targets.
Marcello augments his income by selling small amounts of cocaine. The drug sales help Marcello afford fancy scuba diving outings with his beloved daughter, Alida, who lives with his ex-wife.
One day while his daughter’s visiting with the dogs in his backroom, Simone storms into Marcello’s shop and demands some cocaine without paying for it. A few nights later, Simone forces Marcello to use his little dog grooming truck to take him and a friend on a trip to rob a house. Simone only gives Marcello a small portion of the illicit haul from the house. Even more upsetting, Simone’s friend jokes about sticking the absent owner’s little dog in the freezer to shut her up, and Marcello dutifully returns to the house to revive the dog.
Eventually, Simone deliberately implicates Marcello in a pawn shop burglary that sends Marcello to prison for one year. Marcello refused to rat on Simone to the police, despite their offer to protect him. However, he returns from prison bent on exacting some kind of revenge against Simone, the town bully whose actions turned all of Marcello’s friends against him.
DOGMAN uses narrative realism to tell its story. As such, it’s reminiscent of the Italian neorealism of the late 1940s, though it’s shot in color rather than black and white (somehow, movies almost always seem to look more “real” when shot in black and white). Ultimately, this movie is an intense character study. That’s why Marcello Fonte’s performance in the title role is the key to whether the movie works.
Although Marcello is a sympathetic character, it’s also clear in the movie that he enjoys the fruits of ill-gotten labor whenever the bully forces Marcello to take part in one of his schemes. After one episode where Simone steals cocaine from Marcello’s source, for instance, he and Marcello enjoy dancing with scantily clad female dancers after snorting cocaine at a crowded strip club. Also, when Marcello returns from prison, he demands that Simone give him the money from the pawn shop robbery, even though Simone says he spent all the money on the fancy red motorcycle he now rides.
Marcello’s saving graces are the attention and love he pays to his daughter as well as to the care of the animals in his shop. He even tries to show kindness to Simone, even when he clearly doesn’t deserve it.
Ultimately, DOGMAN shows that Marcello’s journey toward revenge just makes things worse, and doesn’t satisfy. The victory Marcello achieves over Simone is temporary. In fact, it turns into a disaster. A victory that’s disastrous and unsatisfying is a hollow victory indeed.
DOGMAN also contains lots of strong foul language, and the movie’s final acts of violence are bloody, intense and extreme. As predicted by Marcello’s friend early in the movie, someone is eventually going to kill Simone, because, eventually, Simone will push someone over the edge.
DOGMAN is the Italian movie that garnered the Best Actor prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. Marcello is the unassuming dog groomer in a rundown coastal community. His friends own the businesses next door to his. Marcello listens quietly as they complain about their lives. One of their complaints is the local bully, a brutish ex-boxer named Simone. One man suggests they should have Simone killed, but another argues that somebody’s going to kill Simone eventually, so why should they stick out their necks? Of course, Marcello is one of Simone’s favorite targets. Simone keeps forcing Marcello to take part in petty crimes. Eventually, Simone goes too far, then so does Marcello.
DOGMAN uses narrative realism to tell its story. As such, it’s reminiscent of the Italian neorealism of the late 1940s. DOGMAN is a character study. That’s why Marcello Fonte’s role as Marcello is key to the movie’s success. Ultimately, DOGMAN shows that Marcello’s journey toward revenge makes things worse and doesn’t satisfy. DOGMAN contains many strong obscenities, and the movie’s final acts of violence are bloody, intense and slightly extreme.