Kashtanka (1952)

Article 5290 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-6-2016
Directed by Mikhail Tsekhanovskii
Featuring the voices of Boris Chirkov, Vladimir Feoktistov, Vladimir Gribkov
Country: Soviet Union
What it is: Dog story

A dog is separated from her owner during a long trip to the city and is adopted by a man who works in the circus and has a trained animal act.

This short animated film is based on a story by Anton Chekhov that is told from the dog’s point of view, which makes it somewhat similar to IT’S A DOG’S LIFE. However, it is perhaps even less of a fantasy than that movie; for one thing, the dog never addresses us directly – her thoughts and feelings are told to us by a narrator. The Walt Lee guide describes the fantastic content as being that of “a dog and his (sic) animal friends”, but if that conjures up visions of “Charlotte’s Web”, it should be noted that at no time do the animals talk to or fully understand each other; when a goose goes off on a speech (honking, not talking), all the dog realizes is that it must be important and that she can’t understand a word of it. So I’d have to say the fantastic content here is very marginal, and even the presence of a clown doesn’t turn it into a horror movie. That being said, it’s an excellent and moving little piece, and the animation is outstanding; I suspect it was rotoscoped, but if it was, it was still one of the most effective uses of that method I’ve seen; the characters move with such natural and realistic grace. My favorite moment is when the animal suddenly finds herself in a situation where she must choose between her old owners and her new one. All in all, this is a lovely piece.


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