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The Day of the Cat

Siobhan Argent

GERMAN FILM FESTIVAL: Swiss acting royalty Bruno Ganz (Wings of Desire, Downfall) plays the Swiss President in this uneven political drama.
The Day of the Cat
While The Day of the Cat (Der große Kater) has the makings of a promising film, it fails to live up to its own potential due to uneven performances, awkward shifts in tone, a sometimes-confusing plot, and a hackneyed metaphorical tone that threatens to bury the entire film in the lead character’s overdone sentiment.

The plot is suitably complicated for a political drama; yet another president is under siege. The main story revolves around Kater (Bruno Ganz) and his attempt to retain power while his close friend attempts to pull the rug out from under his feet. While at this point, you’d expect some kind of West Wing-style freneticism, you’re greeted with the kind of calm European approach that dominates the feel of this lavishly styled film.

While Kater (Bruno Ganz) muscles his way through various betrayals and political manoeuvres instigated by his so-called allies, Dr. Stotzer (Ulrich Tukur) and assistant Dr. Bässler (Christiane Paul), his wife Marie (Marie Bäumer) nurses their dying son Louis (Moritz Möhwald) as he unknowingly approaches his death bed.

Marie is stunningly beautiful and appropriately passionate about protecting her son. Unfortunately, it is a passion that is often overcooked thanks to a script that shifts too quickly under the pressure of covering too much ground. The audience is hurtled from devastating personal drama to the warfare of the modern political takeover attempt, leaving very little time for any kind of intelligent crossover between these two clashing elements.

When The Day of the Cat begins to blend these two worlds together, things really start to get hackneyed. Blunt metaphors, such as using the king and the queen of a chess set in a tense stand-off between husband and wife, begin to look like an amateur’s attempt at injecting some philosophy into the film. The opening montage has promise, with Kater seen busily dissecting watches and discussing the fleeting nature of time. But the attempts to return to this idea tire quickly and detract from the otherwise-interesting elements of the story. This problem is compounded by a strong main cast who have been let down by a bizarrely tuned script. Weaker acting from the supporting cast, and the film’s discordant combination of the personal and political, further compounds the film’s woes.

The Day of the Cat poses many questions, but it’s hard to tell what it answers. Kater may have nine political lives, but this account of his story fails to do his survival skills as a political genius any justice.

The Day of the Cat
Director: Wolfgang Panzer
Stars: Bruno Ganz, Ulrich Tukur, Marie Bäumer, Christiane Paul, Edgar Selge, Justus von Dohnányi, Antoine Monot, Jr.
Germany, 2010, 89 minutes

2011 Audi Festival of German Films
SYDNEY: April 6 – 18
MELBOURNE: April 7 – 18
BRISBANE: April 7 – 12
ADELAIDE: April 13 – 18
PERTH: April 14 – 18

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Siobhan Argent completed an Arts degree at the University of Melbourne and is currently undertaking a postgraduate diploma in editing and communications. Given the chance, Siobhan would love to learn numerous different languages and read as much classic literature as she can get her hands on. Siobhan is currently a reviewer for ArtsHub.