Over the past week at the Cambridge Film Festival I have been watching a lot of films and the most wonderful thing about that is that about 80-90% of them have been foreign language film. Having such a variety of film from a variety of countries certainly lead to a huge increase in my enjoyment from this years festival.
Katharina Mückstein’s L’Animale is an Austrian coming of age film centred around the family of teenage Mati (Sophie Stockinger). As a tomboy, she enjoys hanging around with her mates, Seb (Jack Hofer), Kogler (Dominic Marcus Singer) and Philipp (Simon Morzé), riding their dirt bikes, drinking beer and smoking weed far more than doing anything more stereotypically girly. Slowly her perceptions change as the dynamics in this group of friends shifts and positions are lost to be replaced by previously perceived outsiders.
The developments in Mati’s relationships here are understated and subtle and take their time to fully take root. However, not so subtly, the relationship of Mati’s parents, Paul (Dominik Warta) and Gabi (Kathrin Resetarits), takes a dramatic hit that changes one of their views on their entire family structure whilst the other carries on seemingly regardless. But they both have issues and secrets, what isn’t clear is if one lead to the other.
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The success of L’Animale owes a lot to the performance of Sophie Stockinger as Mati. Her incremental development, alongside her growing assurance of what she wants out of life and who she is, is wonderful to watch but is offset by not a few issues and problems along the way. Mati’s friends are mostly throw away, typical boy roles, lacking in the maturity needed, more interested in themselves and always playing catchup and that is in contrast to the time given to show Mati’s new friend Carla (Julia Franz Richter) as a fully formed character and with far more depth than her previous gang. For a teenage-centric coming of age film there is a surprising amount of time and detail devoted to Mati’s parents and they too give superb performances as a couple with their own problems.
L’Animale depicts the very real struggles of fearing that you are not able to be true to yourself and your sexuality and the issues that can come of that not just at that time but also further into the future. Having the confidence to be yourself, even if it is frowned upon or the decision feared, is paramount. Perfectly showing that the problems do not go away, it can’t be hidden forever and the longer it goes on the more damage you can do not only to yourself but to others.
Once again the script and delivery in this film has to be commended as it makes it all feel very natural and has been a commonplace occurrence at the festival across a large section films from various countries. It goes to show that getting the tone and voice right goes a long way to making your film a success and more easily enjoyed by the audience, no matter the topic. L’Animale delves into its themes and handles them really well and takes its time to develop the story and characters in an emotionally connective way.
L’Animale will be released in the UK at a later date.