Sunday, March 6, 2011

Rat-Dog

In the 28th minute of the 2001 Argentinean film La Ciénaga (The Swamp), a young teenage girl, Veronica, relates a story to the other kids playing in her backyard swimming pool. I quote the subtitles from the DVD:

"Her cousin found a dog in the street. A tiny short-haired one. It looked abandoned, so she took it home. She left it with her cats and fed it. The next day, she gets up to feed it again. The dog is covered in blood, and the cats are gone. She takes the dog, washes and dries it off, and takes it to the nearest vet. She tells the vet, 'Doctor, I think this dog ate my cats.' 'Put it on the bed.' The vet turns and takes an ax hanging on the wall and cuts the dog in half. The woman gets up close and sees it has loads of teeth, two rows. The vet says, 'That's not a dog, ma'am. It's an African rat.' "

The story alarms a five-year-old boy, Luciano, who later asks his mother, "Do African rats exist?" She doesn't respond. Being put to bed by his father that night, the boy says, "Leave the light on, Dad. There's a huge rat." "It's okay," says the father, comforting him. The next day, his two sisters try to scare him by telling him that the unseen dog barking ferociously behind the neighbor's high wall is a "dog-rat." Later, the boy climbs a ladder leaning against the wall in order to see the barking dog. He falls off and the scene ends with him motionless on the ground, either unconscious or dead.