Audi German Film Festival: The Day of the Cat (2010)

12 Apr

(Wolfgang Panzer, 2010, Germany, in German, Drama, 89 minutes)

The Day of the Cat is an at times amusing political drama that more often than not fails to rise to the occasion. Bruno Ganz (Wings of Desire, Downfall) plays the Swiss President, nicknamed The Great Cat, who puts his nine lives to the test both professionally and personally when a crisis in his cabinet and an impending visit from the Spanish royalty meet head on with his ongoing struggle to deal with his son’s terminal condition.

While the Western approach to political drama is to heighten the realism; insert punchy dialogue a-la Aaron Sorkin or go the comedic route in the vein of 2009’s In the Loop, the European mode seems to be calm and calculated, thus losing any possible tension and intrigue. The Day of the Cat plods along at an uncomfortable pace and is weighed down in overly complicated plot points, further let down by solid but unexciting performances from the cast.

Director Wolfgang Panzer attempts to do his best with a weak screenplay from Claus P. Hant and Dietmar Güntsche but loses confidence with obvious and embarrassing decisions, such as using a chess board and its King and Queen to represent the President and his wife. The screenplay moves clumsily between the cliched personal story, that of a dying child and his parents on the brink of separation, and a stiff, unconvincing political story. While there are elements to enjoy the overall feeling the film instills is disappointment and confusion; and considering the film is based on the true experiences of author Thomas Hürlimann, a greater film should have prevailed.

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