L’Animale is an Austrian film of straightforward quality and beauty. It concerns young Mati (Sophie Stockinger) who must choose between her motocross with the boys and following her heart’s desire when a new girl moves into town. It’s a tried and true romance story, with a twist. During its final moments it has one of the loveliest sequences of the TWIST festival. Perspectives shift as the cast takes turns singing the film’s namesake, Franco Battiato’s amorous “L’animale”, a scene duly inspired by Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia. In moments like these, when Director Katharina Mückstein lays her heart bare, L’Animale exudes a warmness sure to win over festival goers.
A slice of life drama, the film is full of substantial life moments, snapshots of the everyday experiences that create a larger picture. As her crew zips about a gigantic quarry on their motorbikes, they bond in that youthful way when everyone still has the room to broadly hold the same interests. These coming-of-age stories live and die by their character’s shift, or when they have a change of consciousness that allows them to become their authentic self. This is the time of Mati’s development when she’s in her graduating year and learning about Goethe’s Blissful Yearning:
Tell this to no one but the wise,
for the masses will just ridicule it:
I would praise the living thing
that yearns for death in the flames.
The young men do not take very kindly to Mati’s shifting interests. They want her for themselves, for their scooting around the quarry and their small time vandalism, and their sense of entitlement, as Men who should have Women. They become very brash and angry with her, causing chaos within her own circle as she leaves her friends for a truer romance. Her parents’ relationship also struggles, as her father takes a fondness to his handsome friend. This matched journey makes the gay experience a shared family dynamic that is pretty unique within films of the type.
Beyond Magnolia, it has taken the right notes from Call Me By Your Name. The freewheeling spirit and adventure of self is the same between them. Mückstein has created a special fragment of a slice of life story that goes most of the way but doesn’t tuck in the corners. We’re left without anything like the resolution of a full ending for our endearing cast, who all perform to the occasion. L’Animale is full of warmth and ingenuity and, even with its lack of a finish, is worth living in its characters’ world for its running time.