Anne-Sophie Bine balances humor and darkness in her short “Dog Lover,” an exploration of how far a person will go in order to be loved.
Directed and co-produced by Bine and written by Ari Jacobson, “Dog Lover” screened on Monday night at the Newport Beach Film Festival. The story follows Walter (Paul Hungerford), a demoralized husband who is struggling to compete for the affection of his wife, Sarah (Gaby Santinelli), against their dog, Max. But when Walter stumbles upon the one absurd desire that can win Sarah back, he is confronted with a choice: change himself in order to be loved, or risk losing love altogether.
“I think humor saves a lot of things from getting too dark, which is why comedy is such an interesting avenue to explore dark themes with,” Bine told MovieMaker. “I was really drawn to the idea of creating a disturbingly happy ending where this character obtains what they’ve always wanted, which is to be loved, but by totally debasing themselves. So it’s like, how far are you willing to go for love and what sacrifices are you willing to make?”
“Dog Lover” is one of four shorts Bine has made, including “Prufrock Blues,” “L’Appel,” and “Cherubs.” A multi-lingual dual citizen of Poland and France, Bine grew up moving around to different countries with her parents. The highly educated director has a bachelor’s degree from Stanford, a Master’s degree from the Sorbonne in Paris, and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the American Film Institute. Now, she’s following her creative passions and making films that ask thought-provoking questions.
“I’m more interested in films that make a statement about their character or explore a question rather than provide an answer or make a particular statement about the world. But I think as far as Walter is concerned, his answer is, I would do anything to be loved,” Bine said. “Everyone turns out happy, but the cost of it I think in many people’s eyes is very dehumanizing. But, you know, whatever floats your boat… there are frameworks that you can develop behind closed doors with other people that work for both of you, that if you publicize to the rest of the world, people would turn a very critical eye to. But I think what happens behind closed doors is nobody’s business but your own, and if it works, it works.”
In the end, that’s the moral of the story of “Dog Lover” — do what makes you happy.
“There’s no right answer to how to live your life. And there’s always an interpretation to be made and then another interpretation that counters that,” Bine said. “One interpretation is don’t change yourself to be loved. But the other interpretation is do whatever you want to do. And if you want to change yourself because love makes you feel alive, then go for it.”
Main Image: Paul Hungerford and Gaby Santinelli in Dog Lover courtesy of Anne-Sophie Bine