Where the Dogs Divide Her (2010)
Director: Martin Rutley
Writers: Andrew Rutley
Starring: Jon Stoley and John Fletcher

The Plot: Where the Dogs Divide Her is an experimental film, not completely unlike Eraserhead or El Topo, where logic and narrative take a backseat for the experience of the purely visual and unleashed creativity. If there is a story, it focuses on Everard Fletcher (Jon Stoley) a young man tormented by a past he can not forget nor find forgiveness for. We watch as he stumbles through a bizarre world of violence and eccentricity that defines the term “surreal”. Will he awaken from this nightmarish world and find redemption, or will the darkness he finds himself imprisoned in slowly devour his soul?

The Review
David Lynch has often been quoted as saying that he has the opinion that ideas are never our own. Instead, ideas exist on a different level of consciousness than what we humans are capable of reaching or understanding. It is there that these ideas float above us like balloons. Sometimes, it would seem, that these ideas float down towards us and we are able to grasp them out of the air in order to be inspired towards creation. Where the Dogs Divide Her is an independent film that is very much inspired by the likes of David Lynch, and that devotion shows up in all facets of the film. Right down to the uncompromising view of narrative, this is a film that wears its influences for all to see. If you’ve ever seen the likes of Mulholland Dr., Inland Empire or the works of Alejandro Jodorowsky; then you can essentially imagine precisely where this film is coming from. We have here a film that denies all conceivable thoughts on general storytelling, but instead focuses on the surreal and bizarre. Whether I agree with the balloons that this filmmaker picked from out of the universal subconscious or not, I do have to admire the gumption it takes to create something so daring.

The first ten minutes of Where the Dogs Divide Her is equal to wandering around a dark forest while blindfolded. Knowing nothing about the project, other than having seen the trailer, I had no idea just what I was getting into. Aside from a title that reminds me of a Stone Temple Pilots song, I only had vague ideas of what the movie would present on a visual level. As the movie plays out, it doesn’t become utterly apparent that we’re dealing with a strange and different world until the half hour mark. It is during this strange introduction that the film finds its footing and establishes everything that is to come. We have a man dressed in a suit, staring back at his reflection in a mirror with blood soaked hands. The man utters to himself “It was them or me!”, and thus we have the reoccurring theme of guilt and the internal struggle of our leading man who must combat these emotional issues. Unfortunately, it’s hard to dig incredibly deep into this character due to the flip-flopping nature of the narrative, we never get close enough to wrap our heads around what ideas are being conveyed and who our characters really are.

Seemingly a hodgepodge of concepts, Where the Dogs Divide Her seems to be a free flowing look at various forms of inner guilt and dark contemplative ideas. The main problem I seem to have with the film, and apparently others have felt this way before me, is the lack of substantial aspects of intrigue. Not that a surrealist piece of cinema should be held in the same position that more mainstream films usually are, by having characters for us to root for or grab our interest. I just find that in the case of really great filmmakers who have made films in this style, even if one doesn’t completely understand what the artist is saying, the audience is usually left in awe by their creativity. Although Where the Dogs Divide Her is most certainly a visual film and comes across as greatly polished, it lacks the confrontational, sordid and clashing visuals of a Jordorowsky or Luis Buñuel style. Even though it has some interesting character moments, it lacks the well rounded appeal of David Lynch’s often humorous narrative creations. The hook is unfortunately missing from the line, and the audience is left nibbling at the bait but unwilling to engage with the film.

The movie does come close however. There are really great moments interspersed throughout the film, and most of these revolve around the “father” character that our leading man stumbles upon. His obtuse dialogue and mysterious persona is actually quite involving and does grab your attention. When the character leans back, for no apparent reason, and begins to howl a demonic pitch during mid-conversation, there is no sensation to laugh whatsoever. Although the moment is rather preposterous and seems very out of place, the character is alluring enough that we the audience are willing to buy into this in order to see where things go. I think director Martin Rutley shows great promise, as he has a very visual style and his interests are certainly brought to the screen with a passion but the structure and narrative flow of his story is what he will have to build upon. With some slight adjustments, either removing some scenes and instead bridging these ideas into a cohesive whole or simply making our characters more engaging, this film could have easily become something truly special.

The Conclusion
As stated, director Martin Rutley shows great promise here. I think his visual statements are deep and worth searching out. In future films, I am sure he’ll make the adjustments necessary to both express himself as a creative filmmaker and capture the audience with more structure. A film such as this doesn’t call for a simple three act scheme of course, but for pacing issues and the general enjoyment of the audience, it absolutely helps to either have characters that the audience can latch onto or moments that hearken back to a certain form of reality. Even Eraserhead was relatively straight forward for half of its running time, and focused on the universal fear of fatherhood. As it is, I will say that I generally liked Where the Dogs Divide Her, but I express that with reservations. The visual force of the film is worthy of a viewing, if the film somehow crosses your path. You can read more about this project and others via the official website at Hunger Cult Films.com.

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