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Film Review: Dog-Apartment (Koerkorter)
by Marinell Haegelin

Once a grand ballet dancer, now Sergei can only dream about those good old days. It was an ill wind that blew him to the wastelands of this kolkhoz (former Soviet Union collective farm), where his past is as remote as the city squatting in the distance. Even dreaming is impossible living in a doggone voraciously wretched apartment that every morning wakes him with its barking. Its dissatisfaction defies Sergei’s dull daily efforts to appease, and in turn multiplies his discontent as he trudges to his battered car. Bumping along to work through the bleak sodden landscape, every trip it seems the tree stumps multiply. Even the shabby ax-headed rooster delights in trailing him along the road.

Too soon the monotonous workday drudgery begins. Following his self-prescribed procedure, he retreats into his memory where the strains of comrade Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake fill his head and heart guiding his plies, fluent relevés, tourners and sautés. Performing fouettés whips a joy into him that is tangible to those watching while placidly munching, up to the point when their excitable head swings match the rhythm of the milking machines. Then …his feet land squarely, solidly in reality once again. Shuffling back to the car and retracing the morning drive a fateful ill-judged maneuver sideswipes Sergei’s best intentions. His car is further bruised, his apartment’s causing a ruckus, and the culprit’s long gone. Wearisome steps take him home to the cigarette, the drink, and photos of when he was the Sergei.

Estonian director Priit Tender’s DOG-APARTMENT is a brilliantly executed 14-minute, stop-motion animation. Astonishingly rich in detail and sans dialogue, nevertheless its biting black humor is not lost on audiences through the characters’ exaggerated facial expressions and movements, and the orchestrated action. Tender’s inspiration was the neo-surrealist Andres Ehins poetry, particularly his poem “Dog Apartment.”