Dogtooth is a truly unique Greek film that observes the inner workings of an dysfunctional family unit in which the three children (two girls and a boy), now in their early twenties, have been completely denied access to – and contamination by – the outside world.
The family live in an luxurious, yet isolated, country estate where the children have been homeschooled, and had their minds sculpted to fit their father’s bizarre ideals. They are taught facts such as the word for vagina is keyboard, a zombie is a small yellow flower, a salt shaker is called a telephone; they believe their mother is able to give birth to a dog and that cats eat the flesh of children.
Their day-to-day schedule consists of competing against one another in various athletic activities in return for stickers, playing games like “who will wake up first” with a bottle of chloroform or “who can hold their finger under the hot tap the longest”, and throwing items over the surrounding wall to their missing/dead older brother.
The only outsider to enter into their world is Christina, a security guard from the factory where Father works, Christina is paid to provide the son with sexual relief. When Christina trades Older Daughter two videotapes (Rocky and Jaws) for some oral sex, their meticulously constructed universe begins to disintegrate.
I have to say, I’ve never seen anything quite like Dogtooth. Like the father in the film, director Giorgos Lanthimos has created an utterly surreal world that is simultaneously disturbing and absurdly humorous. Where else could graphic scenes of incest and cat mutilation coexist alongside spastic Flashdance -inspired performances and hilarious recitations of Rocky dialog?!
Overall though, the main feeling conveyed is one of sadness. Aside from sporadic outbursts of rage the children act mildly robotic, speaking in monotonous short sentences, and seem generally disconnected emotionally. They live in lavish surroundings yet are unable to properly flourish. Incarcerated in Eden.
Visually one can’t help but be reminded of Michael Haneke’s work; obsessively long takes, methodically framed static shots, a clinically modern aesthetic. It’s hard to say if there’s a message beneath all this irrationality, though various interpretations are possible; perhaps a metaphor for Greece’s totalitarian government or a nod to the numerous incest / imprisonment cases surfacing in recent years (Fritzl, Mongelli, Moe, Alvarez)… either way, this is one unsettling Greek film you don’t want to miss, right up there with Singapore Sling.
- Deleted scenes
- Theatrical trailer
Available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment.