Andrew Kötting’s previous film, released this time last year, Edith Walks, paid homage to and told the story of Edith Swan Neck, the wife of King Harold. Shot as an absurdist, quasi-experimental documentary, it followed Kötting and a band of merry travellers as they walked the 108 miles between Waltham Abbey to St. Leonards on Sea. It was, in short, pish.
Kötting returns with another experimental feature that blends narrative fiction with film essay in Lek and the Dogs. And, whilst the film maintains the inaccessible, pseudo-intellectual posturing this writer has come to associate with the director’s work, perhaps this time Kötting’s film isn’t quite as deserving of the compost heap.
Loosely adapting Hattie Naylor’s stage play, ‘Ivan and the Dogs’, which itself is based on the remarkable true story of Ivan Mishukov, a young Russian boy who at the age of four fled his abusive home and for two years lived with a pack of wild dogs, Kötting attempts to delve the depths of human psychology, pain and suffering.
Xavier Tchili’s Lek, who recounts his story into a battered voice recorder, pitches the story upright with Kötting layering, through associative imagery and an aural landscape that invokes both melancholy and dread, a story that explores the manner in which past traumas can impact the forming of identity.
Lek and the Dogs has what many of Kötting’s other films seem to lack, an emotional core that invites the audience in to its experience. The bleak world in which Lek exist is so lacking in humanity and his suffering so raw and real that you are allowed an opportunity to engage and let emotional weight of the film press down upon you. And, in this, it the film feels more realized. While, it’s a tough 90 minutes, ultimately it’s a rewarding one that invites further thought.