Two dogs, two cities, two voices: one male, one female. "Smells like paradise", the 'dogumentary' by Ovidiu Anton and Alexandru Bălăşescu, presents a simple and clear experimental set-up: a mongrel from Bucharest, the metropolis which was for a long time known as the city of stray dogs, was adopted in Vienna and domesticated under the conditions of a civilizing and bureaucratically regulated contact with animals. The parallel mounted opposite story is that of a bitch from Vienna who comes to the Romanian capital with her owners, runs away, and there, in the urban jungle of the post-socialist milieu, step by step learns the way of life of a free-roaming animal with no connection to human functions of protection and feeding.
These stories are told from the perspective of the animals, and are provided with commentaries, aperçus, and philosophical speculations regarding the coexistence of dog and man and themes such as exile, migration, urban planning and political power structures.
Anthropomorphisation as distancing effect, but also as artistic attempt to dissolve the boundary between man and animal and to insinuate a form of coexistence that aims to end the hierarchy of the relationship. This is completely in accordance with the work of Jacques Derrida, who devoted the final years of his life to animal philosophy; he questioned the logocentric controlling position of humans - who want to erase their potential animality - which is anchored in the philosophical tradition. Derrida attempts to let this borderline between human world and animal realm become frayed, a border which separates the one from the other sometimes as rampart, sometimes as abyss; he attempts to fold it, to multiply it, and in this manner to establish a zone of interference between animal- and human world.
"Smells like paradise" locates itself precisely in this twilight zone, where animals begin to speak - animot, the animals as word - and mankind, as animal owner, becomes mute. Unleashed hand cameras follow the dogs on their routines, which in the case of Vienna are predetermined by people, in the case of Bucharest are however self-chosen. Re-territorialisation versus de-territorialisation. The voices combine with the movement without becoming one with it; they pose questions, in the framework of a dialectic of domestication and returning to the wild, regarding existential 'thrownness', transcendental dwelling and the conditions of freedom. In the end, the uncomfortable realisation ensues that perhaps Janis Joplin was right after all: "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."
The concept of the film by Ovidiu Anton and Alexandru Balaşescu won the first prize at the competition "Create Your Bucharest" as part of the Vienna Biennale 2015 at the MAK Vienna.
The production of the film "Smells like paradise" was sponsored by the Austrian Ministry for Art and Culture, and by the Otto Mauer Fonds and by Brenntag Romania.
The presentation of the film in the new project space KOENIG2_by robbygreif is supported by the Romanian Cultural Institute in Vienna.