18th October

The Isle of Dogs

This 1968 classic of science-fiction cinema starred Charlton Heston as a shipwrecked mariner called Soutar and Roddy McDowall as Julius, a cocker spaniel and lecturer in sociology. Although praised for its satirical script and groundbreaking innovations in make-up techniques, it was not a box-office success, and a sequel, Destination Dog Star, was cancelled early in production.

In The Isle of Dogs, dogs have become the dominant species on the planet in a post-apocalyptic future. Humans, who have lost the power of articulate speech and communicate largely through growling, barking, whining and howling, are kept as pets, or reared for particular kinds of employment. As well as pampered lap humans there are sheep humans, hunting humans, racing humans, guide humans, and humans trained for bomb disposal and gruelling manual labour.

Soutar is washed up on a beach after a ferocious storm, the sole survivor of his ship’s crew. He finds himself in a sophisticated canine society ruled by aristocratic poodles and their ferocious Dobermann henchdogs. The Isle’s constitution claims to operate a code of kindness towards lesser species, humans included. As Soutar soon discovers, though, the code is routinely ignored. Cruelty and neglect are everywhere, and ownerless or abandoned humans are captured and held in ‘rescue centres’ – appallingly overcrowded places from which they are transferred to ‘sleep camps’, never to return.

Soutar tries to rouse his fellow humans to rebellion, but they have been conditioned to desire only food, recreational exercise and sex. Frustrated, he strikes up a forbidden relationship with a police dog called Lydia, who introduces him to her uncle, Julius. The trio decide to find out what really happens in the camps where humans are ‘put to sleep’. The camps are actually enormous factories processing humans into dog food. Disgusted at the idea of consuming human meat, Lydia and Julius lead a revolt against the poodles and civil war ensues. Lydia is killed and although Julius’s forces are ultimately triumphant, Soutar realises that he cannot remain on the Isle. He builds a new boat and, with a hand-picked group of house-trained men and women, sets sail for a life elsewhere. The final shot shows two kittens playing in the stern of the vessel.

Reader: Iona Zajac
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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