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April 8, 2011 / Siobhan Argent

The Day of the Cat (Der große Kater)

Published 8/4/11 by

While The Day of the Cat (Der große Kater) has the makings of a promising film, it fails to live up to its own potential.

Uneven performances, awkward shifts in tone, a sometimes-confusing plot and a hackneyed kind of metaphorical overtone that threatens to bury the entire film in the lead character’s overdone sentiment.

The plot is suitably complicated for a political drama; yet another president is under siege. The main story revolves around Kater (Bruno Ganz) and his attempt to retain power while his close friend attempts to pull the rug out from under his feet. While at this point, you’d expect some kind of West-Wing-style freneticism, you’re greeted with the kind of calm European approach that dominates the feel of this lavishly styled film.

While Kater (Bruno Ganz) muscles his way through various betrayals and political manoeuvres from his so-called allies Dr. Stotzer (Ulrich Tukur) and assistant Dr. Bässler (Christiane Paul), his wife Marie (Marie Bäumer) nurses their dying son Louis (Moritz Möhwald) as he unknowingly approaches his death bed. Marie is stunningly beautiful and appropriately passionate about protecting her son. Unfortunately, it is a passion that is often overcooked thanks to a script that shifts too quickly under the pressure of covering too much ground. The audience hurtles from devastating personal drama to the warfare of the modern political takeover attempt, leaving very little time for any kind of intelligent crossover period between these two clashing elements.

When The Day of the Cat begins to blend these two worlds together, things really start to get hackneyed. Blunt metaphors, like using the king and the queen of a chess set in a tense stand-off between husband and wife, begin to look like an amateur’s attempt at injecting some philosophy into the film. The opening montage has promise, with Kater seen busily dissecting watches and discussing the fleeting nature of time. But the attempts to return to this idea tire quickly and detract from the otherwise-interesting elements of the story. This problem is compounded by a strong main cast that has been let down by a bizarrely tuned script, poor acting from the wider cast and the discordant intersection of the personal and political, with the result that neither carry enough weight to be the driving force behind the movie.

The Day of the Cat poses many questions, but it’s hard to tell what it answers. Kater may have nine political lives, but the film surrounding his story doesn’t quite do his survival skills as a political genius any justice.


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