What to say about Animalada? It is an Argentine film in which a man falls in love with a sheep, and kills a large number of people to ensure that his love affair can continue. That synopsis alone is probably enough to weed out those who wish to see this film from those that don't. If you don't enjoy watching realistically simulated, if not exactly explicit, sex with animals, or violent death on film, then Animalada will do little to satisfy. It is an ambiguous, disturbing and ultimately opaque film that requires a strong stomach of its viewers.
Alberto (Carlos Roffe) is a well off Argentine, an avid hunter, married to successful magazine editor Natalie (Christina Banegas) with two lovely adult children. He is bored, however, feeling trapped and listless, dissatisfied. He and his wife spend the summer each year at their ranch, and on this particular evening, while they are reading quietly in the living room, he hears a noise at the French doors. He gets up to see what it is, and is immediately smitten, by a sheep. The next day, he asks his ranch hand Miranda (Jose Maria Monje) to separate out Fanny (the name he has given to the sheep) from the rest, which are being taken off to slaughter, and take her to the barn. Soon, Alberto is sneaking out of the house at night to hold long, ardent conversations with Fanny. He brings her a blanket to sleep on, and lovingly strokes her wool.
And, soon enough, he is enjoying sexual congress with Fanny. And not implied sex. The viewer gets to enjoy a slow zoom to the fabric of his pajamas, which we can watch undulating with his rhythmic thrusting as he moans in ecstasy. In fact, this is not the only time the viewer gets to watch adult men hunched over in urgent congress with a sheep. Twice when she is intimate with Alberto, and once when she is "raped" by the ranch hand Miranda. He gets his desserts when Alberto catches him in the act. Unfortunately, Natalie overhears her husband declaring his love for the sheep just before he jams a pitchfork into Miranda's neck. Naturally, this results in much mental agitation for Natalie.
Things go downhill from here, as Natalie calls the kids, and ends up getting committed herself, because no one can believe that staid old Alberto is actually capable of screwing a sheep and killing his romantic rival for said wooly ungulate. Alberto finds it necessary to kill or frame more and more people just so that he can keep his romance with Fanny a secret. And he does see it as a romance. Not as some perverse indulgence or aberration. He even marries her, with himself officiating on audio cassette and farm animals as witnesses. But this does not stop Fanny from straying romantically, and having an affair with a ram, nor does it stop the killing that Alberto finds necessary to persist in his interspecies love. As time goes on, he seems to kill with almost no hesitation, and to stoop to ever new lows, including allowing his son Gaston (Walter Quiroz) to be jailed for a multiple murder that daddy Alberto committed. It doesn't even seem to disturb his equanimity when daughter Paula (Carolina Fal) tells him that his son has been sexually assaulted in prison. As long as he gets to stay with Fanny, life is okay.
The real problem with Animalada is this: if you're going to make a movie about sheep sex, particularly a sheep sex movie in which you inflict several long scenes of said animal intercourse on viewers, you'd better make damn sure that you make a movie good enough to pay off the viewers for the discomfort you are putting them through. Animalada does not do this. While the filmmaking is competent, and the actors are talented, and the dialogue is natural, and the plot, once the absurdity of love at first sight with a sheep is accepted, flows along quite smoothly, the film doesn't say anything. There are few emotional beats and all the characters that the viewer can identify with meet less than desirable ends.
The viewer is left at the end of the film wondering what the point of it all is. That men are, for the most part, scum who will copulate with anything when they get bored with their current partners? That deviation from established sexual norms inevitably ends in tears? That sex with animals is perfectly okay and society should leave people alone who so indulge? It is impossible to tell. It could be any of these things, or none. Director Sergio Bizzio makes the decision to be opaque, which is frustrating to his viewers. Which is not to say that stories of human infatuation with hoofed mammals are necessarily devoid of dramatic possibilities. Edward Albee's play The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? is quite entertaining, and has thematic depth practically oozing out the seams. Animalada is too distant, both from its subject matter and its characters, to ever give up its secrets. We are never given any insight into why Alberto might suddenly fall in love with a sheep. He is clearly bored with his marriage and annoyed with his children, but why not simply pursue a human paramour? Why go to such extremes? Devoid of any thematic meat to chew on, not much remains to enjoy.
What is left, since there seems to be no readily discernible point, is the enjoyment of simulated animal sex and murder. If one lacks a taste for these, one will be disappointed in Animalada. What could have been an interesting domestic drama / slasher film, ends up being a work disturbing merely for the sake of the disturbance. The high quality of the craftsmanship prohibits strict advice to stay away, but anyone interested should approach with caution. Rent this one, if you can stomach it.
The video is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen, and looks good if one overlooks the frequent scratches and dirt on the transfer. The image is consistently clear and bright. The colors, though they don't pop out, are rich and full.
The sound is Dolby digital 2 channel and is good enough for the purposes of the film. There are no pops or hisses or other annoyances. The dialogue is clear, but for English speaking audiences this is not much of an issue since subtitles, which can be turned off, are provided. Sound is important in this film, particularly the frequent plaintive cries of Fanny the sheep, and the often disturbing sounds of her regular lovemaking, and the sound mix provides what is needed adequately. No alternate language track is available.
The only extra available on the Animalada disc is a theatrical trailer, which is a real disappointment. An interview with the director to gain some smidgen of an insight into what he was driving at would have been greatly appreciated, and would have added significantly to the experience of the film. As it is, our ignorance must continue.
Animalada is a film with something to say. What that might be is difficult to determine, though it has something to do with human on animal sexual relations. Or that could merely be a metaphor for some other theme the director is trying to hit. The inability of the film to make clear what it is all about or provide the viewer with an emotionally resonant storyline, or even sympathetic characters whose lives are not destroyed, makes this a difficult film to watch. It is an artfully executed yet pointless work, unless one gains satisfaction from simulated bestiality and murder for their own sake. Animalada ends up being an ambiguous curiosity, not a work of lasting merit. Rent this one, if you must.