Watch Baxter

"Beware of the dog who thinks."
  • R
  • 1989
  • 1 hr 20 min
  • 6.7  (2,713)

Baxter is a French dark comedy-drama film released in 1989, directed by Jérôme Boivin and co-written with Jacques Audiard. The film features a unique narrative perspective as it centers around a sociopathic bull terrier named Baxter. The film stars Lise Delamare, Jean Mercure, Jacques Spiesser, and is based on the novel "Hell Hound" by Ken Greenhall.

The story unfolds in a provincial French town where we are introduced to Baxter, the bull terrier, who possesses an unusual level of intelligence and a sinister inner voice. Unlike typical canine protagonists, Baxter does not inspire thoughts of loyalty and unconditional love. Instead, he is deeply introspective, judgmental, and harbors contempt for humans except for those who can offer him the understanding he desperately seeks.

Baxter's narrative delivers a running commentary, laced with cynicism, on the world and the humans with whom he unwillingly lives. His desire for an independent life is at the core of his discontent. Baxter's perspective of humans is based on observations of their strange behaviors, absurd rituals, and the cruelties they are capable of; it's a dark reflection on humanity and the struggle for control and companionship.

As we come to learn, Baxter's life is a series of unfortunate events as he passes from owner to owner. The movie opens with the elderly Madame Deville (Lise Delamare), Baxter's first on-screen owner. Madame Deville takes Baxter into her home, but the elderly woman's fear of death and obsession with ritualistic order do little in the way of bonding with the independent-minded dog. The lack of mutual understanding leads to a strained relationship between the pet and owner, causing Baxter to yearn for more freedom and agency in his life.

After a set of dramatic circumstances, Baxter finds himself adopted by a young couple. Although this seems like an opportunity for Baxter to find the affection and freedom he desires, things take a disturbing turn as he becomes more a means to an end rather than a companion. The pair's unstable marriage only adds to the discomfort of his existence, as he once again fails to establish any meaningful connections with his human counterparts.

Eventually, the film introduces us to a young boy named Charles (François Driancourt), who becomes Baxter's next owner. Baxter sees in Charles a kindred spirit, someone, he believes, shares his disdain for humanity and the intrinsic flaws that make people unlovable. Charles has a morbid fascination with the Third Reich and displays early signs of sociopathic behavior, which intrigues Baxter. Together, they develop a warped bond based on control, power, and the dark corners of human (and canine) nature.

This dynamic serves as the core of Baxter's character arc. Much of the film explores the chilling and somewhat symbiotic relationship between the dog and his young master. Themes such as alienation, the quest for autonomy, and the distorted lines between loyalty and domination are explored. As Baxter becomes ever more embroiled in Charles' disquieting world, the film takes on a disturbing timbre, subverting the quaint look of suburban life with something much more sinister.

Baxter's unusual plot and storytelling devices challenge viewers to confront uncomfortable truths about both pet ownership and the darker side of human nature. The narrative approach, combining dark humor and psychological depth, creates a quietly unsettling atmosphere that lingers with the audience long after the credits roll.

The film’s creative choice to anthropomorphize Baxter by giving him a brooding, articulate inner voice immediately sets it apart from the typical pet-centered stories. Through his eyes, the audience is exposed to powerful commentary on the universal need for connection and the consequences when that connection is twisted by unhealthy desires and power struggles. Baxter's musings provide a chilling but utterly compelling look into existential dread from a unique vantage point.

Stylistically, Baxter is punctuated with moments of gothic eeriness, rich character portrayals, and poignant scenes that walk a fine line between reality and ominous foreboding. The film's direction and performances, especially that of the dog actually playing Baxter, are carefully orchestrated to maintain the precarious balance between empathy and horror the viewer feels towards the titular character.

The direction by Jérôme Boivin is both thoughtful and daring as it dives into the complexities of Baxter's character. The cinematography, editing, and sound design work together to create an immersive experience where the audience is compelled to see the world through the eyes of an animal expressing profoundly human sentiments, yet still fully entrenched in his canine instincts.

Baxter stands out as a potent narrative experiment and an unconventional exploration of the way we relate to animals and, by extension, to each other. For viewers with a penchant for offbeat cinema that defies expectations and bravely tackles dark themes with an underlying satirical tone, Baxter is a striking and memorable cinematic endeavor.

Baxter doesn't appear to be available from any streaming services.
Add this movie to your Watchlist to get notified when it's available.
  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 20 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    6.7  (2,713)