Sunday, March 27, 2022

Domestic Terror

The Strange Little Cat - Zürcher Screen Shot 2022-03-27 at 9.10.25 AM Screen Shot 2022-03-27 at 9.11.44 AM Screen Shot 2022-03-27 at 9.12.33 AM Screen Shot 2022-03-27 at 9.13.12 AM Screen Shot 2022-03-27 at 9.14.02 AM Screen Shot 2022-03-27 at 9.16.16 AM An unusual chamber piece that holds more mystery and tension in its 70 minute runtime than an average thriller, Ramon Zürcher's The Strange Little Cat calls on a normal German middle-class family life into question: Are they OK?

The film is composed entirely of medium static shots in the family's small apartment, never to reveal the goings-ons of off frame. Everyone says things in a matter-of-fact fashion and their interactions with others are limited to us watching them staring vacantly to the other person off camera. Mom, played by Jenny Schily who always looks like she is suffering from migraines, tries to hold it together for one day, hosting a dinner party for her extended family. Her two grown children, Simon and Karin, are visiting from elsewhere. Her younger daughter Clara screams on top of her lungs whenever the blender is on and always wrecking havoc with the growling family dog and the orange tabby cat, which won't stop jumping on the dining table. The washer is broken and in need of service, there's moth flying around the kitchen and there's a rat scurrying around in the courtyard below.

Everyone has a strange encounter stories to tell but no one really pays any attention to them. Are they not significant enough or are they the signs of distress? How about the shots of objects - a glass of milk on the kitchen counter with floating hair on top, a yellow ball the dog plays with, a dancing bottle on the stove - what do they signify?

Anything that is said and heard in The Strange Little Cat accumulates into an uneasy feeling. Everyone's saying something to the others but nothing really sticks. This is more of the case to mom than others. She tells a weird story about going to the movies and a stranger next to her put his foot on her foot but she missed the opportunity to withdraw or let him know. Was she getting hit on, or was she making things out of proportion? She tells Karin about a crowded place she goes for lunch during the dog walk, just to have lunch next to some strangers.

People's cruelty to one another seems more accepted - Karin's attitude toward the neighbor's kid who kicked a hacky sack into the kitchen window, or mom's lingering foot above the cat's head, Simon's story about a drunk woman at the party who later got arrested, or mom's contemplation of pricking her finger with a sewing needle, and so on.

There's a lot to unpack in The Strange Little Cat. It's the everyday domesticity that plays out like a horror film.

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