The Local’s Swedish film of the month: My Life as a Dog

The Local's Swedish film of the month: My Life as a Dog
Actor Anton Glanzelius on the set of My Life as a Dog in 1985. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/TT
Film writer Peter Larkin reviews classic Academy Award-nominated Swedish movie My Life as a Dog, directed by Lasse Hallström.

I recently screened My Life as a Dog in Studiefrämjandet in Lidköping. Many of the audience members had never seen a Swedish film before, and many of them felt the universality of this story. The film was adapted from Reidar Jönsson’s 1983 novel. Upon the success of the novel, the rights for the film were bought. Director Lasse Hallström co-wrote the script with Jönsson, Brasse Brännström and Per Berglund.

As the film opens we see a night sky with the voiceover of 12 year-old Ingemar (Anton Glanzelius) and we hear the music of Björn Isfält. Isfält’s piano melody is touching, many film scores go overboard with sentimental string arrangement, but Isfält’s score services the film’s warm centre of a young boy coming of age in Småland and all of the quirky characters that he meets.

The domestic argument scenes in My Life as a Dog involving Ingemar’s brother (Manfred Serner) and mother (Anki Lidèn) are startling and wake us up to the mixture of drama and comedy throughout the film. When his mother becomes ill, Ingemar moves to Småland to live with his aunt Ulla (Kicki Rundgren) and uncle Gunnar (Tomas van Brömsson).

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Småland is where the film finds its comic heart. When in the middle of the film Ingemar returns to his mother the tone of the film almost changes completely from light comedy to the dramatic realisation of his mothers’ prolonged illness. Glanzelius received the Guldbagge Award (Swedish Oscar equivalent) for Best Actor aged only ten, he later retired from acting aged fifteen with only three roles to his name. Glanzelius’ performance is charming as he displays an interesting use of comic timing through his movement and dialogue.

Quirky characters in the Småland village include a man who spends most of time repairing his roof, an artist with plans for an angel sculpture and a trapeze artist with a great memory for names and dates. Hallström is fascinated by human interaction and how his characters deal with chaos in the given moment. My Life as a Dog is an extremely watchable and heart warming film about how most of us need the support structure of our family and friends to get through good and bad times. 

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Peter Larkin is an Irish film writer currently based in Sweden. Read his blog here.