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Review: Heart of a Dog


On the occasions that this writer struggles to sleep, amongst an advisory collection of music is Lou Reed’s ambient album Hudson River Wind Meditations. They say it was composed for his own personal usage during meditations, but it was eventually released commercially. Reed’s widowed wife, musician and performance artist Laurie Anderson, has an equal penchant for the spiritual mode of consciousness. In her new docu-drama film, Heart of a Dog, Anderson has created an extraordinary essay film composed of impressionistic dreams and memories.

Anderson narrates the film as a hypnotist, her voice prompting entrancement as we gaze upon a collection of abstract images and listen to conscious-altering ambient music. What the entire experience amounts to is as difficult to rationalise as the film’s ‘plot’; Anderson provides both deeply personal insights into her life as well as observations on everything from trauma, death, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, 9/11 and Wittgenstein. It is appropriate to say that the film is a succession of bizarre non sequiturs, with Anderson’s dog Lolabelle being the closest things to a subject. Quite clearly this is made by an artist willing to push the boundaries of personalised expression, closely resembling Anderson’s own musique concrète style of audio experimentation. Super 8, animation and photography are all part of the visual lexicon, each implemented to resemble a profound visual poem on loss. Dedicated to her late husband and his ‘spirit’, and professing on everything from her mother’s death to her pet dog’s blindness and eventual passing, this is immensely elegiac, strangely serene, sometimes frustratingly obtuse, but also pleasingly euphonic film.

If you’re at all interested in seeing cinema retain its validity as a form of personal expression, rather than just a corporatized money engine, you will find much to savour and appreciate in this strange and touching documentary.


Heart of a Dog is released on DVD 13 June. Order your copy from


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