[Film Review] Dogtooth (2009)

Dogtooth poster

English Title: Dogtooth
Original Title: Kynodontas
Year: 2009
Country: Greece
Language: Greek
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Yorgos Lanthimos
Efthymis Filippou
Cinematography: Thimios Bakatakis
Christos Stergioglou
Angeliki Papoulia
Hristos Passalis
Mary Tsoni
Michele Valley
Anna Kalaitzidou
Rating: 7.3/10

Dogtooth 2009

Greek absurdist Yorgos Lanthimos’ Oscar BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE PICTURE nominee DOGTOOTH is a totalitarian allegory blessed with a brainwave of its conceptual idiosyncrasy. Confined within an upperclass residence cloistered from the outside contact, there lived a household of five, father (Stergiogiou), mother (Valley), elder daughter (Papoulia), son (Passalis) and younger daughter (Tsoni).

The outside is off-limit for the family members, except for the paterfamilias, who works in an industrial factory, and sometimes, he would bring a security guard Christina (Kalaitzidou) to home to sate the son’s sexual needs (interestingly, no such arrangements are organised for his daughters) and pays her afterward. The three adult children are strictly educated and, to a certain point, brainwashed by the parents’ extreme pedagogy, according to which, language as we know it is re-interpreted in a nonsensical randomness, and they are not permitted going out until their canine tooth fall off (eventually one of them’s will), together with other singular theories to justify their odd existence.

No internet, cellphone, or television is presented to the children (a phone is secretely used by mother to contact father when he is in his office), but their residence is equipped with a swimming pool and a spacious verdant garden, where the trio offspring keep themselves busy in all kinds of childish competitions and occasionally wonder over the passing planes, but a cauldron of seething restlessness starts to alter the status quo, the outburst of violence, for instance, is unwarranted and haphazard, still, the biggest threat in fact is fomented by Christina, who introduces the idea of barter and new stuffs from the outside world to the elder daughter (two video cassettes), and wilfully awakens the latter’s sexual curiosity by commanding her to lick her “keyboard”, sex is explicitly depicted through Lanthimos’ static frames (an arthouse attribute), often aiming at a somewhat unwonted angle, precluding the usual audience-friendly modus operandi, instead, it encompass a partial of its objectives, and masterfully undergirds the entire enterprise’s absurdity and heterodoxy.

Due to the fact that these characters are intrinsically guinea pigs entrapped in an unfathomable context, Lanthimos is given a free pass to elucidate the reasons behind all the rules and actions, and buffets his audience with ceaseless drollness, fierceness and perverseness to burnish his anti-Utopia message, the training-dog metaphor might be the clearest idea we could suss from the whole film, where its minimally geometrical compositions, self-absorbing performances (a mettlesome Papoulia who pulls off an excruciating legerdemain and an affectively arresting Passalis whose abject mental state often hangs himself out to dry are awards-worthy high points), and an utter vacuum of musical accompaniment compensate the zany logic-defying premise and take a lark in its sky-is-the-limit peculiarities from where the elemental impulse and restraint of human behavior stem, and in that front, Lanthimos would explore further in ALPS (2011) and THE LOBSTER (2015), a track record vouches that he has been morphing into one of the most fascinating auteurs in our times.

Oscar 2009  Dogtooth

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