Throughout the three films we have viewed in class is the reoccurring theme of sexual awareness and sexual awakening.  In the first film, sex is perceived as a natural aspect of life.  Everyone is aware it is happening and is encouraged by both the matriarchal grandmother and aunt.  In the second film, sex is kept quiet.  The act is often horrific and almost always violent.  Yet in Hallstrom’s 1985 film My Life as a Dog, sex is portrayed in an innocent nature clouded with uncertainly.  To the characters within the film, sex is about description, exploration and wonder.  Each of these aspects seeps into the life of Ingemar, to which the audience gains an innocent perspective of adolescence.

The first time in the film sex is brought up is between Ingemar and his girl friend who lives near his mother.  He is slicing his finger, as if to become a “blood brother” with her, but instead asks her to suck on his finger.  In doing so, Ingemar tells her that they are now married.  The scene is a long shot of the two characters.  They are both outside near the railroad tracks, playing at what appears to be their secret hangout.  Similarly, the second appearance at the railroad hangout, Ingemar mimics the traditional ideological representation of a “father” or “husband.”  He is sitting on a rock reading her a story about someone who was poisoned, while she lay on her back inside the small dyke under the train tracks.  For the first time in the film, she eludes to the act of sex.  “Come and lie down […] I’ve undressed.”  The shot is a medium-long shot of Ingmar, and the audience can see her bare legs and feet but she is still dressed.  Oblivious to her statement, Ingmar continues to read the paper out loud to her, an act that reminds me of when Peg would try to lure Al into sex on the late 1980s TV series Married with Children. Yet when the train arrives, she tells Ingmar to quickly get into the small cubby space under the tracks.  He jumps on top of her only to have her dad appear on the other side of the tracks.  He cannot make out what the children are doing in the small space, as the shot is filmed from one opening of the cubbyhole and backlit by the opening. Everything is dark. Only a shadowed outline is apparent.   The symbolic notion that her father cannot tell what the children are doing is reflective of the children not knowing what sex is about.  As the audience quickly learns, she has only removed her tights but feels as if she is complying to the things her mother does with her father.  She knows they are supposed to lay together, naked, but nothing more.  Likewise, her father sees a distorted image of a boy on top of his daughter but cannot see what is really happening.    

As Ingemar moves to live with his uncle, sex becomes more mysterious.  The older men in his life thrive on his youthful descriptions of innocence.  They want to hear a child describe seeing breasts for the first time in an attempt to relive what it was like to be a curious boy.  The young girls in Ingemar’s life also want to explore the ideas of sexual awakening.  The audience watches as two young maturating girls’ catfight over which one will have Ingemar, to which he barks at them like a dog.  The audience witnesses that Ingemar’s maturity level and unstable moment in life causes him to lose control over how to process the situation and he digresses into a childlike state of mimicking his dog rather than that of a father or husband.  The audience is left to realize that children are given glimpses into adult habits and activities but like the shot of the cubby hole, blackened by shadows, so too are children’s understanding of sex.  Children wonder about sex and it is natural for them to explore themselves.  By not addressing the topic, children will go to their friends and find the answers.  Hallstrom points out that the men in the film were educating Ingemar about sex, but it was the girls who were acting on it.

 

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