The opening of DOGS DON’T WEAR PANTS (KOIRAT EIVÄT KÄYTÄ HOUSUJA) is a gorgeously picturesque shot of water. The image is an inviting image, as if to say “come swim, the water is fine”. However, the water is not fine, as we see not five minutes later when Juha’s (Pekka Strang) wife drowns suddenly. This is only the starting point to J.-P. Valkeapää’s new film; one that is startling but very human.
We jump forward many years, and Juha has found routine in his life: looking after the house, cooking for his teenage daughter, and masturbating into the dress of his deceased wife as he sprays himself with her perfume. Juha is lonely, there’s no doubt about that – especially apparent when his daughter tries to set him up with her music teacher. One day, when taking his daughter to get his younger pierced sage stumbles upon a back room in a piercing shop where he took his daughter to get her young pierced. Within the room is a man in a latex bodysuit, and when trying to investigate, Juha is batted down and choked by a dominatrix named Mona (Krista Kosonen). This choking brings up his memories of nearly drowning trying to save his wife – prompting a new liking for erotic asphyxiation and the degradation meted out by Mona.
It isn’t just Juha who is living a double life, however, as Mona is shown at her day job, caring for injured and mentally ill people, many shots mirroring her nightlife as a purveyor of sexualised brutality. Her wet suit when she swims mirrors her PVC outfit that squeaks with every movement she makes. Her own dog is a reflection of her treatment of Juha as a dog, whom she strips down upon their every meeting (“Dogs don’t wear pants”). J.-P. Valkeapää shows a clear understanding that the relationship between a person’s sex life and their day-to-day life are not completely separated.
The underbelly of repressed eroticism is only realised when Juha comes to understand his liking of it. The lines between Juha’s reality of the outside world and his sessions with Mona begin to blend together as he falls deeper into the rabbit hole of punishment and sexual excitement. This culminates in a horrifically shocking and bloody scene.
Like with many body horror films, DOGS DON’T WEAR PANTS focuses on the anatomy of many of its characters. In one scene, Juha picks away at his bruised nail, agonisingly peeling it from his flesh as he shudders in what can only be thought of as ecstatic sexualised paroxysm. It’s unpleasant but there is also a perverse humour that runs through this scene and the whole film. It’s a kind of humour where you find yourself laughing, and not understanding why. The whole film generates a mosaic of emotions, and with each new emotion comes a new perspective of the film. A note-perfect cinematic experience for lovers of body horror, or even those that want to try a completely original piece of cinema.