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First Reactions: Dogman

The trailer begins with rather uplifting music accompanying shots of an urban town, two children are playing on a swing set, and it looks innocent enough. Surely, this can’t be the film that I’ve read about?According to the synopsis I have read online, Dogman‘s plot has been inspired by a homicide committed by a dog groomer during the late 1980s in the gangland outside Rome. The case, involving hours of torture in a dog cage, is considered among the most gruesome in Italian postwar history. And the film’s director, Matteo Garrone has tackled crime before with his film Gomorrah (2008).

The next shot is quite amusing, a great Dane is sat on top of a hospital bed while a man files the dog’s paws. It looks so comical, but upon second glance it shows how our character  Marcello, played by Italian actor Marcello Fonte, appears so small and insignificant in this world. We then cut to the ”dogman” peering between the blinds, looking out of the window, his eyes so large that they look like they’re going to pop right out of his skull, has he seen something (or someone) who may be a threat?


Shots follow depicting happier times, with our main character enjoying a boat trip with a female companion, enjoying food with friends and looking happy. This still feels like a heart-warming comedy film, but then we are introduced to a rather burly man who embraces the man, holding him tight in a headlock. There’s something odd about this new character, with his track suit and gold chain. He looks like trouble. We see Marcello alone in his apartment watching TV in the dark and sharing his food with a dog, despite seeing the previous pieces of footage, this is quite clearly a loner who prefers the company of the dogs he cares for than fellow human beings.

As the trailer continues we see the gangster hanging out with Marcello the two of them are in a bar where the gangster headbutts a fruit machine after losing a game. This seems like an odd friendship, dominated by fear and the threat of violence. We see a quick shot of the gangster becoming violent with ”Dogman”, bashing his head against a brick wall in his dog pound, as a bulldog growls and bares its teeth. Suddenly everything has become darker, and far more sinister. The trailer’s tone has now shifted it something that is less cheerful, colourful and upbeat. We see a shot of the Marcello with his face battered and bruised, staring out at the sea, the colours have now become muted and grey.


We see the two men having fun in a club, dancing with girls but then the next shot is the two men returning to the pound. We see several shots of dogs in cages, with the sounds of a struggle, and banging. The last shot is Marcello walking several dogs, but now everything seems deprived of colour and life. It’s a powerful shot to end on and gives a clear indication that this film is going to be a tough watch.

After watching the trailer, my first reaction is one of intrigue. the trailer is quite successful in the build up of dread and suspense, without giving too much of the story away.  This looks like the type of film I quite enjoy, and looks to be an interesting character study into what happens when someone is pushed over the edge. I have enjoyed Garrone’s past work such as Reality (2012) and Tale of Tales (2015), so I have high hopes for his latest film. It certainly looks strong judging from the trailer, but will it be too violent and dark to find an audience?


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