A blender hums...
A child screams — not out of pain or distress, just to see what will happen.
A cat is shoved from the table, causing a glass to fall and roll off the edge…
The camera stays steady at child-height, though adult bodies also occupy the kitchen, while the girl ducks out of view to pick up the broken glass. Standing, she announces she has cut herself. An adult body in pink athletic shorts takes the injured finger and wipes it on the girl’s nose, leaving a smear of red. The adult body says, “Now you’re a clown.” The girl grins.
Ramon Zurcher’s 2014 film The Strange Little Cat is not a narrative in the typical sense of the word. It documents a day in the life of a Berlin family, or rather a day in the life of their apartment. The camera is just as likely to be focused on a forgotten dog toy as on the face of the character who is speaking. The family connections are never clearly defined. Neighbors, or perhaps extended family, come and go. Some images, like a child’s misspelled shopping list, appear again and again. Yet with a run time of just 72 minutes, you too may decide that the lack of conventional plot does not turn the viewing experience into a slog.
Imperfect Parenting On View
Some viewers might take issue with the parenting style exhibited in The Strange Little Cat. No one rushes for a band aid when the girl (Mia Kasolo) cuts her finger, and the mother (Jenny Schily) slaps her when she misbehaves. The child, however, seems quite content to be left to her own devices, and the adults are always nearby, ready to answer her sometimes humorous questions. We also get what many may feel as a welcome reminder that parenting is often a communal effort, and older siblings or cousins may be just as influential as a mother.
An OVID.tv Film Heightened by Quarantine
A few months ago, a film confined to a single apartment might have felt surprising, or even inventive. Now, depending on your outlook, it might feel especially applicable or especially torturous.
The film leaves the apartment only in memory, as various characters pause to tell random — and in this writer’s view, wonderfully poetic — stories of everyday life. A man (Luk Pfaff) describes a drunk person he saw at a party; a young woman (Anjorka Strechel) describes noticing that discarded orange peels always land orange-side up. These brief monologues, though coming from different actors, are all delivered in a quiet tone which betrays little emotion beyond a subtle reverence for life.
Those looking for thrilling stories of far off places as a way to escape the daily monotony of quarantine should not attempt to watch this film. Those who dislike subtitles or want something to enjoy with young children should also probably pass it over. If, however, you’d like to be reminded that daily household monotony can have its own sort of beauty, this is the film for you. If you’d find it comforting to see that other houses, too, struggle to keep dog hairs from settling in stray glasses of milk, and that other people, too, will still drink that milk after removing the hairs — watch The Strange Little Cat as soon as possible.
Director: Ramon Zurcher
About the Author:
Fiona Warnick is a Creative Writing major at Oberlin College. She has dabbled in ballet and theater, and speaks semi-passable French. Born and raised near Amherst, Massachusetts, she enjoys reading middle grade fiction and hiking in her spare time. She is trying to get better at Scrabble.