My Life as a Dog
Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:17 am
Plot: Ingemar is a twelve year old boy growing up in 1950s Sweden who goes to live with his aunt and uncle in Smaland while his mother is dying of tuberculosis. In the small town of Smaland he meets an assortment of eccentric and delightful characters who help him adjust to his new life without his mother, brother, and his beloved dog Sickan (he has never known his father).
He meets an athletic girl who loves to box, but who also develops a crush on Ingemar. Berit, the most beautiful woman in town, befriends Ingemar asks him to chaperon her when she models for the town artist. Ulla and Gunar, his aunt and uncle, adopt Ingemar and help him find family and normalcy during a traumatic period in his life.
Discussion: Told from the perspective of the child, this is an affecting and authentic portrayal of a young boy’s attempt to understand the adult world. The director shows us Ingemar’s world through a child’s eyes, so that the smallest events and the largest are presented as equally important. He does not know enough to be able to distinguish ordinary behavior from eccentricity, or to fully understand why a nude model would want a young boy as a chaperone or why a dying man would be so interested in underwear catalogues. His acceptance of everyone he meets is part of his appeal.
Ingemar does not have enough experience of the world to be able to understand what his mother’s symptoms mean, or to wonder if she will die. Because no one told him how ill she was, he blames himself for her death. He does not have the opportunity to express his grief, which adds to his feeling of disorientation and his identification with a dog who is circling the globe in a space capsule. The only comfort he (and the audience) have is the sense that his ability to form relationships with the new people in his life will be a source of strength and happiness to him in the future.
Questions for Kids:
· Why does Ingemar always say it’s important to “compare”? Why do you think that Ingemar compares himself to Laika the space dog?
· Why does Ingemar tell us that he wishes he told his mom everything? Does he blame himself for not having told her everything?
· Why doesn’t anyone tell Ingemar that Sickan is dead? Do you think that waiting to tell him made it easier or harder to deal with when he did learn the truth?