My Life As A Dog


1h 41m 1985
My Life As A Dog

Brief Synopsis

A young boy's life changes the summer he moves in with relatives while his sick mother tries to recover.

Film Details

Also Known As
Ma vie de chien, Mijn leven als hond, Mit Liv som Hund, Mitt liv som Hund
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Foreign
Teens
Release Date
1985
Distribution Company
NEW YORKER FILMS/SKOURAS PICTURES, INC.
Location
Aforf, Sweden

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 41m

Synopsis

Little Ingemar lives in 1959 Sweden with his abusive older brother and is unaware that his mother is dying. He copes with his problems by comparing his lot with those who have it worse and becomes obsessed with Laika, the Russian dog who had no control over his destiny when the Soviets sent him into space to die. As his mother gets weaker, Ingemar begins to act like a dog himself, getting down on all fours and howling at times. During the summer, Ingemar's mother is told to send her two boys away so that she can rest, and he goes to stay with his kindly aunt and uncle. Suddenly, Ingemar lives in a supportive world where he is appreciated and well-liked, and when his mother does die, he draws on his happy memories of that summer to help him through his grief.

Film Details

Also Known As
Ma vie de chien, Mijn leven als hond, Mit Liv som Hund, Mitt liv som Hund
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Foreign
Teens
Release Date
1985
Distribution Company
NEW YORKER FILMS/SKOURAS PICTURES, INC.
Location
Aforf, Sweden

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 41m

Award Nominations

Best Adapted Screenplay

1985

Best Director

1985
Lasse Hallstrom

Articles

My Life as a Dog


One of the greatest and most sensitive films about children and the turbulence of childhood, My Life as a Dog (1985), Lasse Hallstrom's adaptation of Reidar Jonsson's autobiographical novel, was a break-out film for the director. The story of a 12-year-old boy sent to a rural Swedish village full of amiable eccentrics while his seriously ailing mother attempts to convalesce had universal echoes and it became both a local and international hit. It earned Hallstrom Oscar® nominations for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay (shared with author Jonsson and two other writers), a Golden Globe award for Best Foreign Language Film, and entree to Hollywood, where Hallstrom eventually became a favored in-house director for classy Miramax Oscar®-bait productions like The Cider House Rules (1999) and The Shipping News (2001). None of those films approach the simple joy and poignant pain of My Life as a Dog, a drama that tempers the flights of childhood idyll with an undercurrent of guilt and unease as the puppyish boy blames himself for his mother's declining condition.

Eleven-year-old Anton Glanzelius, a non-actor in one of his only major roles, is an adorable puppy of a spirited kid as Ingemar, a sweetly eccentric boy with a creative sense of mischief that has a tendency to spiral out of control. Father is conspicuously and inexplicably absent (Ingemar's explanation, that he's busy at the equator loading bananas into boats, is fanciful at best) and frail, ailing mother is dying of tuberculosis. Ingemar is a sweetheart but he's also a handful and his antics, often instigated by his equally unrestrained older brother, have a tendency to reduce mom to a screaming, sobbing wreck. In need of peace, she has the boys split up and Ingemar is sent to stay with his goofy uncle and joyously tolerant aunt in one of the cutely offbeat little villages that thrive in European films. This is a place where a bedridden old man has Ingemar secretly read to him from a lingerie catalogue, a maverick sculptor puts erotic touches on the pitchers produced by the local glassworks, a buxom blonde beauty drafts Ingemar to chaperone while she poses nude for the same sculptor, and a soccer-playing tomboy poses as a boy (and the boys go along with the charade). "I have an affinity for eccentrics and outsiders, and portraying them and not being judgmental," Hallstrom admitted in an interview with London's Guardian. Ingemar, who has what can only be described as a drinking problem (for some inexplicable reason, he is physically incapable of lifting a drinking glass to his mouth in public without sloshing the liquid everywhere) and has a tendency to drop to all fours and bark like a dog, is strangely at home here.

Hallstrom was one of the first directors to make his name in the music video world, directing practically every music video for Abba as well as their big screen debut, ABBA: The Movie (1977), and he established his film credentials with a series of autobiographical television films directed from his own original scripts. My Life as a Dog was his first adaptation of another author's work and he collaborated with author Reidar Jonsson who based the novel on his own childhood; he grew up with a mother who suffered from tuberculosis and terrible fits of violence, but Hallstrom found his own personal connection. "I related to it much more than I realized as I was making the film," reflected Hallstrom in a 2002 interview. "My mom was a writer and needed a lot of that privacy and I do recall that feeling of that closed door, that typewriter that you heard from the other side of the door. I can relate to being shut out like that." Hallstrom was 13 years old in 1959, the year in which the novel is set, and his recollections of the culture and texture of the period helps color Ingemar's experience.

The metaphorical dog of the title is most obviously Laika, the dog that the Russian space program sent up into space in a Sputnik. As Ingemar sees it, the helpless canine was imprisoned in a capsule and sent orbiting around the Earth to die, alone, of starvation, sacrificed to human progress. Closer to home, he distresses over his own beloved pooch, who was kenneled back home when he was sent away (never to be seen again), and has a tendency to bark with unrestrained exuberance when he gets overexcited. It's pure childish play, but it also keeps him from having to expose the feelings and fears bubbling under his alert eyes and adorable smile. For all the joy and laughter in his uncle's home, for all the adventures of his summer of discovery and his winter of acceptance, he's plagued by guilt and unease, terrified that he's responsible for his mother's death. That's a lot of responsibility to be heaped on a 12-year-old boy facing constant rejection as he's shuttled from home to home and Hallstrom never lets us forget the big emotional weight this little boy carries. "I've been lucky compared to others," muses Ingemar in a reflective monologue played out against a view of the night sky, as if he's peering up for a glimpse of Laiki. "You have to compare so you can get a distance on things."

Hallstrom's subsequent Swedish productions – The Children of Bullerby Village (1986) and its sequel, More About the Children of Bullerby Village (1987) – were sweet juvenile productions that continued in the vein of childhood, but without the depth of emotion and bittersweet ache of My Life as a Dog. Nevertheless, Hollywood was already beckoning. His first American, the offbeat romantic comedy Once Around (1991) and the troubled family drama What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), are more in tune with the subtlety of feeling and the complicated emotional conflicts at the heart of this career-making film. Hallstrom balances the pleasures and pain of Ingemar's life beautifully: the ephemeral joys of everyday events, the curiosity and mystery of sex and attraction, the confusion of growing up, the helplessness of being a kid in a grown-up world, the fear of abandonment, the comfort of being accepted into a community, and the possibilities that every new day brings.

Producer: Waldemar Bergendahl
Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Screenplay: Lasse Hallstrom, Reidar Jonsson, Brasse Brannstrom, Per Berglund
Cinematography: Jorgen Persson
Film Editing: Christer Furubrand, Susanne Linnman
Art Direction: Lasse Westfelt
Music: Bjorn Isfalt
Cast: Anton Glanzelius (Ingemar), Tomas von Bromssen (morbror Gunnar), Anki Liden (Ingemar's mother), Melinda Kinnaman (Saga), Kicki Rundgren (monster Ulla).
C-101m. Letterboxed.

by Sean Axmaker
My Life As A Dog

My Life as a Dog

One of the greatest and most sensitive films about children and the turbulence of childhood, My Life as a Dog (1985), Lasse Hallstrom's adaptation of Reidar Jonsson's autobiographical novel, was a break-out film for the director. The story of a 12-year-old boy sent to a rural Swedish village full of amiable eccentrics while his seriously ailing mother attempts to convalesce had universal echoes and it became both a local and international hit. It earned Hallstrom Oscar® nominations for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay (shared with author Jonsson and two other writers), a Golden Globe award for Best Foreign Language Film, and entree to Hollywood, where Hallstrom eventually became a favored in-house director for classy Miramax Oscar®-bait productions like The Cider House Rules (1999) and The Shipping News (2001). None of those films approach the simple joy and poignant pain of My Life as a Dog, a drama that tempers the flights of childhood idyll with an undercurrent of guilt and unease as the puppyish boy blames himself for his mother's declining condition. Eleven-year-old Anton Glanzelius, a non-actor in one of his only major roles, is an adorable puppy of a spirited kid as Ingemar, a sweetly eccentric boy with a creative sense of mischief that has a tendency to spiral out of control. Father is conspicuously and inexplicably absent (Ingemar's explanation, that he's busy at the equator loading bananas into boats, is fanciful at best) and frail, ailing mother is dying of tuberculosis. Ingemar is a sweetheart but he's also a handful and his antics, often instigated by his equally unrestrained older brother, have a tendency to reduce mom to a screaming, sobbing wreck. In need of peace, she has the boys split up and Ingemar is sent to stay with his goofy uncle and joyously tolerant aunt in one of the cutely offbeat little villages that thrive in European films. This is a place where a bedridden old man has Ingemar secretly read to him from a lingerie catalogue, a maverick sculptor puts erotic touches on the pitchers produced by the local glassworks, a buxom blonde beauty drafts Ingemar to chaperone while she poses nude for the same sculptor, and a soccer-playing tomboy poses as a boy (and the boys go along with the charade). "I have an affinity for eccentrics and outsiders, and portraying them and not being judgmental," Hallstrom admitted in an interview with London's Guardian. Ingemar, who has what can only be described as a drinking problem (for some inexplicable reason, he is physically incapable of lifting a drinking glass to his mouth in public without sloshing the liquid everywhere) and has a tendency to drop to all fours and bark like a dog, is strangely at home here. Hallstrom was one of the first directors to make his name in the music video world, directing practically every music video for Abba as well as their big screen debut, ABBA: The Movie (1977), and he established his film credentials with a series of autobiographical television films directed from his own original scripts. My Life as a Dog was his first adaptation of another author's work and he collaborated with author Reidar Jonsson who based the novel on his own childhood; he grew up with a mother who suffered from tuberculosis and terrible fits of violence, but Hallstrom found his own personal connection. "I related to it much more than I realized as I was making the film," reflected Hallstrom in a 2002 interview. "My mom was a writer and needed a lot of that privacy and I do recall that feeling of that closed door, that typewriter that you heard from the other side of the door. I can relate to being shut out like that." Hallstrom was 13 years old in 1959, the year in which the novel is set, and his recollections of the culture and texture of the period helps color Ingemar's experience. The metaphorical dog of the title is most obviously Laika, the dog that the Russian space program sent up into space in a Sputnik. As Ingemar sees it, the helpless canine was imprisoned in a capsule and sent orbiting around the Earth to die, alone, of starvation, sacrificed to human progress. Closer to home, he distresses over his own beloved pooch, who was kenneled back home when he was sent away (never to be seen again), and has a tendency to bark with unrestrained exuberance when he gets overexcited. It's pure childish play, but it also keeps him from having to expose the feelings and fears bubbling under his alert eyes and adorable smile. For all the joy and laughter in his uncle's home, for all the adventures of his summer of discovery and his winter of acceptance, he's plagued by guilt and unease, terrified that he's responsible for his mother's death. That's a lot of responsibility to be heaped on a 12-year-old boy facing constant rejection as he's shuttled from home to home and Hallstrom never lets us forget the big emotional weight this little boy carries. "I've been lucky compared to others," muses Ingemar in a reflective monologue played out against a view of the night sky, as if he's peering up for a glimpse of Laiki. "You have to compare so you can get a distance on things." Hallstrom's subsequent Swedish productions – The Children of Bullerby Village (1986) and its sequel, More About the Children of Bullerby Village (1987) – were sweet juvenile productions that continued in the vein of childhood, but without the depth of emotion and bittersweet ache of My Life as a Dog. Nevertheless, Hollywood was already beckoning. His first American, the offbeat romantic comedy Once Around (1991) and the troubled family drama What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), are more in tune with the subtlety of feeling and the complicated emotional conflicts at the heart of this career-making film. Hallstrom balances the pleasures and pain of Ingemar's life beautifully: the ephemeral joys of everyday events, the curiosity and mystery of sex and attraction, the confusion of growing up, the helplessness of being a kid in a grown-up world, the fear of abandonment, the comfort of being accepted into a community, and the possibilities that every new day brings. Producer: Waldemar Bergendahl Director: Lasse Hallstrom Screenplay: Lasse Hallstrom, Reidar Jonsson, Brasse Brannstrom, Per Berglund Cinematography: Jorgen Persson Film Editing: Christer Furubrand, Susanne Linnman Art Direction: Lasse Westfelt Music: Bjorn Isfalt Cast: Anton Glanzelius (Ingemar), Tomas von Bromssen (morbror Gunnar), Anki Liden (Ingemar's mother), Melinda Kinnaman (Saga), Kicki Rundgren (monster Ulla). C-101m. Letterboxed. by Sean Axmaker

My Life as a Dog - MY LIFE AS A DOG


You wouldn't expect a semi-black comedy about a morose Swedish pre-teen to become a sleeper hit in American movie theaters, but that's exactly what happened to Lasse Hallstrom's My Life as a Dog back in 1983. Hallstrom - who's become something of a Miramax Pictures go-to-guy over the years, with such Oscar-nominated films as The Cider House Rules (1999) and Chocolat (2000) now under his belt - established his trademark blend of charm and existential despair with a coming-of-age story that grows more deeply romantic upon repeated viewings.

The film's original Fox Lorber DVD release was a nuts-and-bolts affair that suffered from a relatively faded print. Now, My Life as a Dog gets the royal treatment, with a two-disc Criterion release that's overflowing with must-see extras, and features a pristine high-definition transfer.

Hallstrom tosses just the right amounts of sentiment and world-weariness into the story of Ingemar (Anton Glanzelius), a Swedish 11-year old in the late 1950s who can't win for losing...not that he tries very hard to stay out of trouble. He spends his time running wild, getting into mischief and fearing for his mother's life. No wonder his voice-over musings focus on such disasters as the fate of Laikka, the doomed Russian space dog. This kid badly needs a break.

Young Ingemar is eventually too much for his dying mother to handle, so he's shipped off to the countryside to live with his aunt and eccentric Uncle Gunnar (Tomas von Bromssen). There, Ingemar will travel a twisted road of self-discovery that leads to sweetly understated lessons in friendship, family, death, and sexuality. Both Glazelius and Melinda Kinnaman (as Ingemar's sparring-partner/first love) give remarkable performances, naturalistic wonders that once again suggest that the best approach to film acting is to start doing it before you understand the process.

The movie is presented in the wide screen anamorphic format, as it should be to fully capture the warm beauty of cinematographer Jorgen Persson's images. The sound mix is as crisp as can be expected throughout, with a bit of audible hiss, but not enough to distract from one's enjoyment of the film. Included in the extras are a video interview with Hallstrom, in which he discusses the autobiographical elements of My Life as a Dog, and admits to getting his start directing music videos for the pop group, ABBA! There's also an essay by film critic Michael Atkinson, as well as a piece by Kurt Vonnegut, whose childlike sense of wonder and dread seems a direct antecedent to Hallstrom's work. This film is ripe for personal interpretation, and Vonnegut's essay - a rare piece of new writing from an aging master - is an enjoyable read.

Perhaps the most fascinating bonus for My Life as a Dog fans will be the inclusion of Shall We Go to My Place or Each Go Home Alone, a loose-limbed 52-minute TV film Hallstrom shot in 1973 that seems greatly influenced by early Robert Altman. It's a graceful, funny little story about the Swedish dating scene that contains several flashes of Hallstrom's later wall-to-wall sparkle. It's well worth a look if you're a fan of concise, character-driven storytelling. Given how young he was when it was filmed, Hallstrom should be proud of it.

For more information about the DVD special edition of My Life as Dog, visit The Criterion Collection web site. To order My Life as a Dog, visit TCM Shopping.

by Paul Tatara

My Life as a Dog - MY LIFE AS A DOG

You wouldn't expect a semi-black comedy about a morose Swedish pre-teen to become a sleeper hit in American movie theaters, but that's exactly what happened to Lasse Hallstrom's My Life as a Dog back in 1983. Hallstrom - who's become something of a Miramax Pictures go-to-guy over the years, with such Oscar-nominated films as The Cider House Rules (1999) and Chocolat (2000) now under his belt - established his trademark blend of charm and existential despair with a coming-of-age story that grows more deeply romantic upon repeated viewings. The film's original Fox Lorber DVD release was a nuts-and-bolts affair that suffered from a relatively faded print. Now, My Life as a Dog gets the royal treatment, with a two-disc Criterion release that's overflowing with must-see extras, and features a pristine high-definition transfer. Hallstrom tosses just the right amounts of sentiment and world-weariness into the story of Ingemar (Anton Glanzelius), a Swedish 11-year old in the late 1950s who can't win for losing...not that he tries very hard to stay out of trouble. He spends his time running wild, getting into mischief and fearing for his mother's life. No wonder his voice-over musings focus on such disasters as the fate of Laikka, the doomed Russian space dog. This kid badly needs a break. Young Ingemar is eventually too much for his dying mother to handle, so he's shipped off to the countryside to live with his aunt and eccentric Uncle Gunnar (Tomas von Bromssen). There, Ingemar will travel a twisted road of self-discovery that leads to sweetly understated lessons in friendship, family, death, and sexuality. Both Glazelius and Melinda Kinnaman (as Ingemar's sparring-partner/first love) give remarkable performances, naturalistic wonders that once again suggest that the best approach to film acting is to start doing it before you understand the process. The movie is presented in the wide screen anamorphic format, as it should be to fully capture the warm beauty of cinematographer Jorgen Persson's images. The sound mix is as crisp as can be expected throughout, with a bit of audible hiss, but not enough to distract from one's enjoyment of the film. Included in the extras are a video interview with Hallstrom, in which he discusses the autobiographical elements of My Life as a Dog, and admits to getting his start directing music videos for the pop group, ABBA! There's also an essay by film critic Michael Atkinson, as well as a piece by Kurt Vonnegut, whose childlike sense of wonder and dread seems a direct antecedent to Hallstrom's work. This film is ripe for personal interpretation, and Vonnegut's essay - a rare piece of new writing from an aging master - is an enjoyable read. Perhaps the most fascinating bonus for My Life as a Dog fans will be the inclusion of Shall We Go to My Place or Each Go Home Alone, a loose-limbed 52-minute TV film Hallstrom shot in 1973 that seems greatly influenced by early Robert Altman. It's a graceful, funny little story about the Swedish dating scene that contains several flashes of Hallstrom's later wall-to-wall sparkle. It's well worth a look if you're a fan of concise, character-driven storytelling. Given how young he was when it was filmed, Hallstrom should be proud of it. For more information about the DVD special edition of My Life as Dog, visit The Criterion Collection web site. To order My Life as a Dog, visit TCM Shopping. by Paul Tatara

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

The Country of Sweden

Released in United States 1986

Released in United States March 1987

Released in United States May 1987

Released in United States on Video April 20, 1988

Released in United States on Video May 18, 1988

Released in United States Spring May 1, 1987

Shown at 1986 London Film Festival.

Shown at New Directors/New Films series in New York City March 24 & 25, 1987.

Released in United States 1986 (Shown at 1986 London Film Festival.)

Released in United States March 1987 (Shown at New Directors/New Films series in New York City March 24 & 25, 1987.)

Released in United States on Video April 20, 1988 (English language version)

Released in United States May 1987 (Los Angeles)

Released in United States Spring May 1, 1987

Released in United States on Video May 18, 1988 (Subtitled version)

Began shooting early in 1985.