Vancouver Film Fest Altered States entry not quite ‘a bloodthirsty headbirth’

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Animals (Tiere), directed by Greg Zglinski

Mona Petri does double-time in the reality-shredding Animals. The film is part of the 2017 Vancouver International Film Festival’s Altered States program.

Animals, screening as part of VIFF’s 2017 Altered States series, has one truly memorable WTF? moment. But there’s more to the Greg Zglinski head-spinner than that

A review of Animals (Tiere), directed by Greg Zglinski

Animals (Tiere) is based on a screenplay by Jörg Kalt. Based in Austria, Kalt was a journalist, director and screenwriter before he committed suicide, age 40, in 2007.

Suicide, and infidelity, are very much at the heart of Animals. Directed by Greg Zglinski, the 2017 movie is ostensibly about a Viennese couple, high-end chef, Nick (Philipp Hochmair) and his wife, children’s book author Anna (Birgit Minichmayr). They head out for a working holiday in the Swiss Alps but, on the way, run into trouble when they hit a sheep. Suddenly, nothing is what it seems…

“From then on, the question becomes, what’s real? Is Nick gaslighting Anna?”

Their story is interspersed with scenes of another character, Mischa (Mona Petri). Mischa is house-sitting for Nick and Anna; she also resembles the neighbour woman upstairs with whom Nick has been having an affair (this much is pretty much certain). In both stories, a mysterious locked room plays a part; only Anna, however, encounters the telepathic cat.

Animals (Tiere), directed by Greg Zglinski

Enter the telepathic cat

That’s right, a telepathic cat. Animals is full of bizarre moments, including many animal-related ones. (I’m not prepared to go out on a limb and say this is what gives the movie its title.) Half the fun of the movie—if you can call such dark material “fun”, though it is shot through with dark humour—is trying to figure out where it’s going.

According to a Variety review of Animals, Zglinski “made an auspicious splash with his Venice-selected 2004 feature Tout un hiver sans feu,” and has worked primarily in television since. Animals shows that the Swiss-German filmmaker is adept at creating a foreboding atmosphere where anything might happen. And there’s at least one WFT? moment that will set most viewers’ heads spinning.

Fans of movies that ask more questions than they answer will wholeheartedly approve; others might wish for a little more meat on those bones that Nick seems so comfortable with. It’s not quite the “bloodthirsty headbirth” (as translated by Wikipedia) one German reviewer called it, but Animals is a trip worth taking.

Animals screens at the Vancouver International Film Festival Oct 9 and 11. For more details, visit viff.org.

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