Dogs Don’t Wear Pants (Koirat Eivät Käytä Housuja)
How do we cope with loss? Therapists have come up with many different strategies, while others have sought solace in faith and medicine. In Dogs Don’t Wear Pants, Finnish director J-P Valkeapää toys with another way of coping. Our bereaved protagonist, Juha, tries out S&M as he struggles with the loss of his wife.
Pekka Strang (Tom of Finland) is the mourning Juha – though he doesn’t seem to be doing much mourning. Sure, he looks a little mopey and goes through his working day as a heart surgeon almost on autopilot, but he’s got a warm enough relationship with his daughter and appears almost stoic in his grieving. But therein lies the problem: Juha is an apparition of his married self, shorn of emotion, love and feeling.
While his daughter Elli attempts to set him up, Juha, innocently enough, meets Mona, the BDSM dominatrix. Dogs Don’t Wear Pants follows Juha’s trajectory as this apparently boring, normal widower navigates the murky, misunderstood world of BDSM. Valkeapää sought the help of an actual dominatrix in order to make the scenes featuring BDSM as realistic and human as possible. These scenes help Juha find a way to cope, the pain seeming to bring him closer to his wife.
Strang’s face effortlessly holds Juha’s hangdog expression – it’s inspired casting, as is Krista Kosonen (Blade Runner 2049) as the dominatrix. Her moody, tempestuous countenance gives off an aloofness ideal for her role. The pair’s confused, comforting relationship plays out to Michal Nejtek’s impeccable score.
Dogs Don’t Wear Pants wants to blur the line between dark sexual fantasy and the everyday. Regrettably, this juxtaposition can often blend into something resembling the bland more than the fantastical. Nonetheless, it’s a refreshing approach to capturing BDSM on the big screen, as well as a welcome sex-positive film. As Mona tells her workmate: “Darling, I don’t like ordinary stuff.” If you don’t either, then this is the film for you.
Dogs Don’t Wear Pants (Koirat Eivät Käytä Housuja) is released on Curzon Home Cinema on 20th March 2020.
Watch the trailer for Dogs Don’t Wear Pants here: