LIFF27 - The Strange Little Cat - Cinema Review

'Zürcher sets his film almost entirely in the confines of the family apartment, creating an entirely believable and authentic domestic setting, but then does painfully little with it other than subject us to mildly quirky - and increasingly tedious - family life.'

Doing very little to counter the stereotype that Germans have no sense of humour, The Strange Little Cat is not only a comedy that will fail to make you laugh (I think I managed a half-hearted titter at a couple of points) but also will for the most part fail to engage as a meaningful piece of cinema from any genre. You may also be tempted to contact trading standards after watching, as the featured feline is neither especially little nor particularly strange.

Director Ramon Zürcher chooses for his focus the comings and goings of an average German family over the course of a day, with three generations coming together for a family meal as brother and sister Karin (Anjorka Strechel) and Simon (Luk Pfaff) return home to visit their mother (Jenny Schily) and father (Matthias Ditmer). If that were the set up for the film’s story then The Strange Little Cat could have ended up as an entertaining domestic piece. When it forms the whole plot, things begin wearing thin rather quickly.

I’ve seen others describe The Strange Little Cat as minimalist, but in all honesty I can’t accept that as anything other than making excuses for a boring film where very little happens. Zürcher sets his film almost entirely in the confines of the family apartment, creating an entirely believable and authentic domestic setting, but then does painfully little with it other than subject us to mildly quirky - and increasingly tedious - family life. The director’s use of sound (or, to be more precise, noise) is at times intriguing. Noticeable audial intrusions throughout come from machines and contraptions around the apartment - as well as several occasions of interminable shouting from youngest sibling Clara (Mia Kasalo) - but, aside from the fact that there would naturally be parts of life filled with unwanted noise, Zürcher never offers much reason for including these sounds in particular.

This becomes a running theme throughout Zürcher’s film: he either elects not to explain why certain elements are there, or fails to take them anywhere interesting enough to make them worthwhile. There are, for example, a handful of odd, dreamlike tales related by various characters throughout. It’s likely the director was aiming to lace his work with metaphorical messages through these moments, but all they ever do is provide a break to a different setting, often in a somewhat pretentious manner. The mother too occasionally emerges as a focal character, with a suggestion of her being unhappy with her life, but again the director fails to take this thread anywhere meaningful.

It would be unfair to brand Zürcher’s film as a complete failure, as there are definite moments that deserve praise. The director features some genuinely beautiful photography throughout his film, especially when focused upon animals or elements from nature. The cast too cannot justifiably be criticised: all do the best they can with the unexciting material provided. Those elements considered, however, there is just too much here that fails to engage. Whilst Zürcher is clearly capable of impressive camerawork, he largely opts for long static shots which, whilst providing the realism he clearly craves, are just dull. At one point he makes us sit through an entire game of Connect 4 without cutting away once. There’s a reason Connect 4 is not a spectator sport.




The 27th Leeds International Film Festival (LIFF) took place from the 6th-21st November at cinemas around the city, including Hyde Park Picture House and Leeds Town Hall. More information is available via the official LIFF website.


By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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