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#100. Dogtooth - Review

Dogtooth film

Few films demand a sincere exhortation before I recommend them to someone. I immediately think of Lars Von Trier’s disturbing meditation on marriage counseling, 2009’s Antichrist, or Michel Haneke’s Funny Games, a film so devious it knows what the audience wants before they do, and then takes it away from them with a smile on its face. These films were thoughtful, excessive, and brutal, requiring fair warning to any potential viewer that what they were about to watch may effect them in ways they may be ill-prepared. Dogtooth is one of those films.Dogtooth film poster

The film opens with two girls in a bathroom; in their late-teens it looks like, receiving a vocabulary lesson via a tape-recording. Their young faces look nervous while they seem to be listening quite intently, as if there will be a very important test on these new words in the future. The camera focuses on the eldest of the two girls, content to sit idly by while she memorizes her new terms. The gruff voiced man coming out of the speaker sounds intelligent enough, so it seems odd that he defined “sea” as a type of armchair. Well, this is a foreign film from Greece, so it is not unreasonable that the word “sea” in that country may have more than one meaning. The monotone voice quickly moves on to the next word, “highway.” The man reads, “ … a very strong wind.” “Carbine – a beautiful white bird.” Unaware the definitions are wrong; the girls’ attention disappears when they decide to play a game of endurance by seeing who can hold their finger under the hot water tap the longest.

You have to wait until the last frame of the film if you want to find out who won. It turns out these young ladies are actually sisters, and they have a brother, around the same age, who must play this game as well. They are the children of a man and a woman referred to only as “Father” and “Mother.” In fact, no one in the family has been given a name. Father provides his children with a gorgeous home, a generous backyard with grass and a swimming pool with which the children can lazily play, and a strong wooden fence that encloses they entire compound. They can never leave; they have never left. There is mentioning of a fourth brother, and a noticeable empty space at the dinner table, but the siblings are not sure of his whereabouts or his condition. The oldest sister sometimes sneaks food into the backyard and throws it over the wall.

Dogtooth film

To watch Dogtooth to its climax is not unlike the game of endurance the siblings play. There are questions that remain unanswered, and motives that are never quite made clear. Dogtooth could simply be a 90-minute defense against parents that home school, but I don’t think so. Perhaps it is a brutal allegory of fascism; the father rules over his household with complete control, attempting to deny his family any essence or knowledge of the outside world, demanding perfection and never hesitating to use force to maintain control.

Dogtooth film 2010

Whatever the film’s themes or motives, what director Giorgos Lanthimos creates is as spectacular as it is exhausting and bewildering. It maintains a controlled elegance throughout, finding beauty and intrigue in the most unsettling of situations. Lanthimos is able to evoke utter chaos while maintaining complete control. The film never loses focus, and blissfully slips in and out of joy, laughter, and Hell whenever it sees fit. 

I am being vague, I know. I fear discussing the plot anymore will spoil an experience you may never have had. If you enjoy hypnotic, experimental storytelling than just dive into Dogtooth. If taboos of any kind make you uncomfortable than you have been warned. 


If you have seen Dogtooth or have any comments at all don’t be shy. And like always, please click the “share” button below!

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Reader Comments (5)

Comparing this to Antichrist right as I click play on my Netflix. Oh man what am I about to watch.

February 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterScraps

Well now I'm scarred for life.

February 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterScraps

You were warned! Did you like it? Brynn hated it, thought it was complete waste of time, and I obviously loved it. So where do you land?

February 25, 2011 | Registered CommenterBrandon Roberts

Oh I definitely liked it. I've just got a hundred questions I wish I had the answer to, as I'm sure you understand. Were these even really parents or was it all some twisted experiment... Are there really parents out there who do this?

DAMN YOU BRANDON this movie is going to haunt me.

February 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterScraps

So I pretty much watched this and then Antichrist back to back.....I definitely need a mental break before I watch Funny Games. I normally hate unanswered movies, but there was so much wrong with the family that it almost made sense not to know anything about them. I'm curious now how much my own father would have been willing to pay to get me a sex teacher...

March 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCory

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