among last year’s feature film debuts, this one from jonas alexander arnby was an atmospheric wonder that immediately caught my attention. blunt, brisk and reckoning on intimate vibration, when animals dream has all it takes to fly right under the radar of any audience aching for a classic horror movie despite the werewolf analogy it affirms. marie lives with her parents in a religious community on the coast of denmark and works at a local fish factory. her mother, aloof, wheel-chair bound and under treatment for a strange affliction. her father, caring but full of “i know what’s best for you” ideas. her doctor, eager to treat her own bizarre illness willfully mistaken for teen-angst. her work colleagues, keen on playing aggressive sexual pranks on her and baptizing her in a stinky container full of fish heads. her co-villagers, anxious to prowl.
on top of all these, marie witnesses her own transformation and it’s anything but a subtle process. marie as a werewolf is a graceful beast that disputes its own identity even if this means becoming a transgression of unspoken rules imposed by others. the same rules saying that you cannot be too passionate, too sexual or just plain ugly especially if you are a teenage girl living in a repressive society. for her, beauty means not to look and act as anyone else and her commitment to individuality goes against others’ assumptions in a predictably werewolfish way.
at times, when animals dream is a little bit too minimalist for its own good but ultimately, it works just fine as a purposely quiet yet impressive chiller about transition and the aggression it usually involves. no full moon clichés here.