The dog who deserves an Oscar

If the human bond to our domesticated wolf friends is deep and self-evident, so too is our motion picture history with them: some of the great three-hankie melodramas, from Disney’s Old Yeller (1957) to Italian melodrama Umberto D (1952), centre on dogs. After all, it’s hard to deny that a dog in peril is the fastest way to get an audience in the throes of terror. In Anatomy of a Fall, just such a scenario happens to Messi’s character, family dog Snoop, the innocent bystander in this murder mystery and story of moral and psychological complexity.

His terrifying conviction

In one scene of unsparing turmoil and fear, Snoop seems to have been suddenly poisoned. Messi rolls on the floor, looking genuinely and terrifyingly unwell; director Justine Triet has said that Messi was “not just another character or some animal running around [but] as much a part of the film’s ensemble as any of the other actors”, and revealed that after his 22 days on set, the film’s cast and crew gave the dog star a standing ovation. Rightfully so; his performance is one for the canine canon, and Messi holds his own opposite Sandra Hüller, who plays the family matriarch and main suspect in her husband’s murder.

Laura Martin Contini, the long-time dog trainer and coach who has owned Messi since he was a pup, was thrilled to have him in Triet’s film, and has noted that the boy who plays Daniel, Milo Machado Graner, became particularly close to Messi as time went on. It was precisely the kind of real-life bond that the boy and the dog needed to make Snoop such a key confidant in the story. With the film repeatedly giving events a dog’s eye view, Messi pulls off some truly eye-opening sequences – particularly when he essentially “plays dead” so convincingly that his tongue lolls out of his mouth. This is made all the more impressive given that at seven years old, this is Messi’s biggest role to date; his owner Contini says she always knew he had it in him, but he had only done a few advertisements in his native France up until this point.

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