Loosely inspired by Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, this enchanting, minimalist gem by first-time feature director Ramon Zurcher has won admiring comparisons to the work of such masters as Jacques Tati, Robert Bresson and Chantal Akerman.
The Strange Little Cat
A film you'll want to see twice, so powerful is its spell, Ramon Zürcher's astonishing debut feature heralds a bold new talent. Conceived during a seminar with Béla Tarr and loosely inspired by Kafka's The Metamorphosis, this enchanting, minimalist gem converges many of the hallmarks of the New German Cinema (a.k.a. the Berlin School) into a hypnotic, existential tale of familial restlessness.
Two siblings in their twenties return home for a family gathering, where three generations are convening for dinner overseen by a cool, reserved matriarch. The luminous and increasingly cramped Berlin apartment becomes a veritable hive of activity that ranges from the everyday to the eccentric: terse onion-chopping, compulsive mini-screaming fits set off by the whirring of kitchen appliances, a pesky moth, a blinking, buzzing remote-control helicopter. Even the pets partake in this tightly orchestrated domestic dance, where passive aggression is tinged with as much love and tenderness as resentment.
Zürcher, who began as a visual artist,
employs a sliver of a plot to create a sculptural
study of middle-class ennui that
simmers with tension and packs an emotional
wallop. With its surrealist flourishes, all-round terrific performances (including
from the eponymous, ginger-haired feline)
and quiet metaphysical quandaries, The
Strange Little Cat displays an idiosyncratic
(and quasi-structuralist) mastery that is
rare for a first feature. The comparisons
have already been plentiful, and not all that
exaggerated: Jacques Tati, Robert Bresson,
Lucrecia Martel, Chantal Akerman, et al.
But there's no question that there's an original
sensibility at work behind this clever
chain of associative, off-kilter events, in
which loneliness, longing, and the need for
connection (and confession) constantly
threaten to puncture reality's steely façade.
There's something slightly absurd, forlorn,
mysterious and extremely beautiful about
the whole thing, much like life itself.