Looking at animals for an hour and a half isn’t really a tough feat – I mean, who doesn’t love going to the zoo? – and director Flavio Marchetti understands that appeal very well for his debut documentary, Animals and Other People. But his calm and neutral portrait of the Vienna Animal Shelter goes deeper than the cute animals on the surface, exploring the tenuous link between humans and the creatures we all supposedly love.
Using a style akin to the best observational documentarians, Marchetti stands on the sidelines with his camera as the staff go about their daily routines, which span the relatively banal tasks of cleaning and feeding to the urgent operations needed to help mend an animal in physical distress. Housing animals both domestic (the sheer amount of cats wandering around will make any feline lover swoon) and wild (including the most rambunctious and most humanlike group of all, the apes), we immediately gain respect for how adept the doctors and employees need to be in order to respond to each resident’s wildly varying demands.
The most affecting moments come as the film touches on the abuse that domesticated pets endure that leads to their stay in the shelter, as the staff reckons with the amount of people who forgo their responsibility to an animal when they decide they no longer want it. On the flipside, an expecting couple struggles with having to give their cat to the shelter, and potentially to someone else, when they can no longer care for it during their pregnancy.
Reminiscent of Denis Côté’s great animal portrait, Bestiaire, Animals and Other People attempts to have us think of our relationship with animals in a new way and Marchetti steadily accrues his details to get to some powerful final truths.
- Release Date: 10/20/2019