REVIEW: Lek and the Dogs (2018)

Loosely inspired by Hattie Naylor’s play, Ivan and the Dogs, Andrew Kötting brings the finale to his Earth trilogy (This Filthy Earth, 2001 and Ivul, 2009 preceded it) with his take on the story in experimental film, Lek and the Dogs.

It tells the true tale of Ivan, who, at four years old, left his home and lived on the streets with a pack of wild dogs for two years. In Kötting’s interpretation, he stays there until his late 40’s, finding more fulfilling companionship with the animals than with his tumultuous family. The setting is bleak, and grey fills the screen in almost every frame. The film utilizes a documentary style, with archival footage and home movies, alongside interview-like scenes of Ivan (played by French performance artist and actor Xavier Tchili, who starred in every film of the Earth trilogy) telling us his story. 

Kötting invites us to think rather than passively watch, in that it’s a little hard to know what’s going on if you hadn’t read a synopsis prior. It treads a no-mans land between a documentary and a video essay of sorts, and unfortunately becomes tiresome rather quickly. Punctuated by chapter headings like ‘The Path of Reason’, ‘The Trauma of Betrayal’, and ‘Truth is Asleep’; each act is accompanied by voiceover. Ivan speaks in his native tongue to us, and a British woman explains trauma and PTSD, talking as though it is a case file. 

Indistinct images inhabit the screen and it quickly becomes one of those films where you wonder if maybe you’re just not smart enough to ‘get it’. Lek and the Dogs is a confident feature that knows what it wants to be but offers itself to audiences without context, it would have made for a compelling short film but it runs out of gas after thirty minutes.

Originally published on Screen Queens.