Following a special preview for BEV Filmonomics participants, independent producer Lisa Jacobi – in collaboration with writer/director Lauren Cooney – shares personal thoughts on Laurie Anderson’s new film Heart of a Dog…
I was glued to my seat as the credits rolled, not wanting to move for fear of forgetting any detail of Laurie Anderson’s glorious film, Heart of a Dog.
This was a movie unlike any other, so entirely in Anderson’s head, and yet it felt completely like I was splurging my own stream of consciousness, memories and senses onto the screen. This hypnotic, mesmerising series of sounds and repetitive images inter-splices archive footage from her home collection with arty, meditative camera work gliding through nature. Anderson offers us a deeply personal reflection on her life and principally on how the love she had for her dog, Lolabelle, helped her to understand the love she had in the fraught relationship with her mother.
Heart of a Dog resonated deeply with my own synaesthesia, a neurological phenomenon wherein multiple senses automatically and involuntarily merge together. The layered sensorial experience of this film was a representation of the way I synaesthetically see the world.
Immediately I was transported to my own complicated relationship with my mother, overlayed by a profound love for my childhood dog, Lady. As humans we expect certain kinds of intimacies to be found within specific familial relationships, and if we don’t receive these intimacies we often find them elsewhere.
“Despite its somnambulant and elegiac tone, Heart of a Dog is hugely redemptive and life-championing.”
Seen partly though Lolabelle’s eyes – an often very comical device – we were brought into the intimacy that Anderson shared with her dog. An intimacy that was largely missing from her mother. Through the experience of processing death, Anderson came to a profound understanding: “Finally I saw it, the connection between love and death, and that the purpose of death is the release of love.”
Some relationships are so intricate that you can’t get to the core of the love, it is only when death occurs that the complexity is lifted and the purity of love is revealed.
The audience is indirectly prompted to engage in a Buddhist meditation which involves remembering a moment “when your mother loved you without a single hesitation”. Evidently this would have been difficult for Anderson. However, we see a glimpse of deep love when Anderson saved her brothers’ lives by pulling them out of a collapsed, frozen pond. Her mother’s reaction was not one of panic and high emotion, but one of incredible, calm compassion.
Despite its somnambulant and elegiac tone, Heart of a Dog is hugely redemptive and life-championing. Since seeing the film I have been inspired to produce multi-layered, sensorial cinematic work that explores my own sense of spirituality, life and death, as well as my own synaesthetic perspective. I would love to find new, like-minded filmmaking collaborators who share this vision.