Director: Jerome Boivin
Writer: Jerome Boivin and Jacques Audiard
Cinematographer: Yves Angelo
by Jon Cvack
Baxter is a very strange film and probably one of the best killer dog movies out there, involving a canine that might be inhabited by Hitler's spirit. We follow him as he goes through three different owners in a small town - an older, uptight lady; a newlywed couple, expecting their first child; and a young boy who’s developing a strange infatuation with Hitler’s last days, and has created his own version of the infamous bunker at an old trash dump in order to recreate the period over and over again.
Baxter resents and eventually kills his first owner, who finds him nettlesome at first, though eventually grows to appreciate the animal. And yet when she tries to give him in a bath and he goes sprinting up the forbidden stairs, which are filled with wood and other obstacles to prevent his entry, Baxter pushes her down, resenting the limitations.
He then ends up at the newlywed couple’s house, staying with them for an extended period, past when they have their child, which he then tries to drown in a fountain in their backyard. After the accident, they can no longer provide Baxter the attention he needs, and the dog moves to a young, deranged kid. Baxter has now met an owner he can appreciate. The boy trains Baxter to attack and kill. One day, a straggler enters the bunker area and falls into the training pit. Baxter is instructed to kill the young visitor, but refuses, saying it’s his own decision on who to kill. This enrages the boy, who after having Baxter impregnate a local girl’s other dog, kills the puppies and eventually Baxter as well.
Given all the abundant Nazi motifs throughout the movie and the French suburban setting, I had a hard time understanding what it all meant. There does seem to be an ongoing issue with authority that Baxter struggles, indicated by his rebellion beneath the old lady and couple's guardianship. The kid, who’s ostensibly on track toward Neo-Nazism, feels like the right fit for Baxter, until he instructs the animal to kill an innocent child. Yet why would this be a problem if he finds the boy so accommodating and respectable? It’s as though something has been left out. Perhaps Baxter appreciated the kids sociopathy and could relate, yet didn’t want the kid telling him what to do, demonstrating that no one wants to live beneath totalitarianism. Baxter was fine until he discovered that his pups were killed and that the boy was going to exploit him to do more of his dirty work. An alternative is that Baxter - as Hitler - was fine being served by his protectors, until that relationship was exploited or damaged (the Old Woman's limiting his ability to travel; the Couple's Child who steals their attention; the Young Boy demanding murder), in which case he flipped; that is, until another, more powerful Dictator entered the picture. I'm not all that confident I'm even close.
It’s a solid film, and eerie enough to be scary. There’s something that’s just a little too unfocused, as though there was suppose to be more included and it either hit the cutting room floor, or just never made it into the film; something another viewing might resolve.
BELOW: Indicating how obscure this film is, I can't find one other YouTube clip beyond this intro.
Thoughts on films, old and new
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