BERLINALE 2018: ISLE OF DOGS BY WES ANDERSON

This entry was posted on February 16th, 2018

By Aldo Padilla

Usually, there is some condescendence when talking about animated cinema, which is usually put in the “family” or “children” section. To the generalists, this cinema is usually limited to consume or nostalgia, with no other quality that its pictorial beauty or its closeness to reality. Despite this idea, it’s possible that animated cinema could be evaluated under the same parameters than conventional cinema, while certain qualities of it make animation unique in its conception, turning that genre in a contradiction in itself.

Wes Anderson cinema contains in essence many elements that belong to the ideas of animations, like the carefully planned and composed shots in its real action films, uniform colors and suggestive palettes that have been his personal trademark, so his first venture to animation with Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) isn’t very strange at all. Nine years after, Isle of Dogs keeps the essence that the Texan filmmaker has, with different nuances, since the strong relationship with nostalgia is no longer there, and the film approaches a dystopic futurism, something which in a first moment can confuse the average fan. But there’s a whole reinterpretation of Japanese cinema in front of this choice, cinema of which Anderson is an ardent fan.

If Anderson’s cinema is known by its choral qualities, the protagonists are usually well delimited. That’s not the case in Isle of Dogs. Chief, the lead character, is the leader of a group of dogs that survive an island call “trash island” where all the dogs of an imaginary Japanese island live in exile: he’s one of the few characters that have a true evolution and change throughout the film. The humans that surround the film seem to be limited by an invisible dictatorship, where a uniform thought seeks to eliminate all the dogs, while the only characters that try to break that mold of thought are a small Japanese child that looks for his pet in Trash Island, and a foreign girl that leads insurrection in the opposite island.

Isle of Dogs constructs its story from the details, screens where televised reality isn’t in stop-motion but 2D animation, which gives a perception of a different reality. Also, there are the details of an island where precariousness and poverty are perfectly defined, something different from the pulchritude and cleanness that are an Anderson trademark. The careful work behind every shot is almost an obsessive compulsive construction. No wonder the filmmaker takes four year for each film he does.

Another factor that’s new in the Anderson universe is the political one, which is shown in the rallies where one can see the behavior of the hypnotized mass by a discourse of hatred, through rhetoric which is not always understood since part of the speech in Japanese wasn’t translated, although the gestures and tone is enough to understand the message. Technology also has an important role, since Anderson builds a landscape where everything seems controlled and televised, with the presence of drones and robots that seems to want to eliminate the emotional bond among living beings.

Isle of dogs is possibly the most singular film in Anderson’s career, with a frenetic language that moves between the canine English of the starts he usually works with, and the Japanese of the humans that is sometimes translated, other times reinterpreted and others, only suggested. It’s remarkable that the filmmaker made the humans talk in their natural language in order to have more consistency with their universe even if this can confuse the spectator; a risk that one expects is not lost in time of its international premiere.

There’s a conductive thread in respect on the relations between humans and dogs, characterized by a loyalty that leads to subordination, the canine ideal or life objective destined to service. Isle of Dogs summons the harmonic relation that for millennia humankind has had with dogs, a relation that doesn’t avoid abuse, incomprehension and mutual dependence, but that is unique and difficult to define, a force that keeps strong through time.

Written and directed by:  Wes Anderson
Cast: Bryan Cranston,Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton, Liev Schreiber, Greta Gerwig, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum,
Bob Balaban, Scarlett Johansson, Courtney B. Vance, Kunichi Nomura
Cinematographer: Tristan Oliver
Animation: Mark Waring
Editing: Andrew Weisblum
Music: Alexandre Desplat
Production Design: Adam Stockhausen, Paul Harrod
Casting: Douglas Aibel
Producers: Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales, Jeremy Dawson
Co-producers: Christoph Fisser, Henning Molfenter, Charlie Woebcken