Much like Martin Rosen’s The Plague Dogs, there’s something unnerving about Felidae, throughout the entirety of it’s running time – although, unlike the former, whose bag was naturalism, this invests in a more clear style of caricature similar to that found in Don Bluth’s films. So, the effect of the violence therein is somewhat aneasthetized, but only a little.
In this, the film has an interesting cheat – while stylistically, these characters wouldn’t feel too out of place in All Dogs Go To Heaven, their behavior clearly suggests otherwise. They act like cats – they preen like cats, they quarrel like cats, and they screw like cats (well demonstrated late in the film), while also being able to read and operate computers and other types of machinery.
What is essentially a classic film noir murder mystery, Felidae is all stark angles and thick black silhouettes in composition –
– which give way to nightmare-inducing visuals, here and there: a makeshift underground graveyard, constructed of cat skulls. An extended video-diary montage, that follows a scientists’ descent into a rambling drunk. And, a dream sequence involving Gregor Mendal, standing atop a mountain of feline corpses, thousands of them dangling from strings in a twisted marionette act.
The film also seems to be a contemporary reflection (potent anywhere, but especially in its’ country of origin) on the Holocaust – its’ antagonist is something of a feline Hitler, culling those whom he deems unworthy to breed, to ensure evolutionary purity, and the guardian of that aforementioned underground graveyard – Jesaja – pays worship to Yahweh (the god of the Hebrews – Jehovah, YHWH), and believes that the antagonist – Pascel – is doing the work of the Lord. In another type of film, like Watership Down, this element of the story would’ve been due more allegoricalization. But, this is a film where – again – the cats know how to read, and operate computers. And wear funny little hats. Of this, I have no complaints.
For all this, the film does seem to kind of get entangled in its own narrative, near the end – which isn’t an uncommon problem in films like these, especially murder mysteries. One could say it’s even a hallmark of the genre. Still, this seems less a film concerned with the mechanics of its murder mystery than of everything else around it, and the conclusion, when it comes, seems inevitable from the moment eyes are laid on the character.
Felidae is a nightmare, fully realized and with a vengeance, compromised only by the startlingly out-of-nowhere ending, which offers an uplift that, in the context of the film, feels insincere, even as it provides a cap on a story that is far better left ambiguous, out in the snow. It’s so very jarring and expository that it almost leaves a mark on what had come before, even though it bares no real relationship to it.
Still, that’s the one part of the film that passes out of memory as time goes by, along with the Boy George song that bookends the film. Felidae is a nightmare.