|Melinda Kinnaman in My Life as a Dog, you do get to see those adolescent titties. YIKES.|
My Life as a Dog (1985)
d. Lasse Hallström
Criterion Collection #178
My Life as a Dog was a straight-up art house hit, netting Swedish director an Academy Award Nomination for "best director" and earning eight million plus at the American box office. Not bad for a film that deals frankly with a dark coming of age story about a young boy growing up in small town Sweden. The story of a child growing up in very adult ways is as tried and true a theme in European cinema as exists, period the end. You start with 400 Blows, and really just move forward from there.
Young Ingemar Johansson (played by Anton Glanzelius) is the second son of a single mother/tuberculosis sufferer. Mom is dying, and she doesn't want to put up with her kids, who are a pain in the ass. Ingemar is shipped off to his Uncle's house, and trials and tribulations ensue. My Life as a Dog is based on a Swedish novel that was basically a fictionalized version of the true-life experiences of the author. The story is a straight ahaed bildungsroman. The audience appeal is easy to see- and I wasn't surprised that director Hallstrom got his start directing videos for ABBA.(!)
The explicit treatment of pre adolescent sexuality is inescapably non-American, and yet another reason why it undoubtedly found a larger than average audience among Americans. I think successful foreign films are those that take familiar topics/themes in unfamiliar directions, and My Life as a Dog is a fine example of this phenomenon.