Dogtooth (2009)

Director: Giorgos Lanthimos

Writer: Efthymis Filippou, Giorgos Lanthimos

Stars: Christos Stergioglou, Michele Valley, Aggeliki Papoulia

For my very first review on here, why not start with an incredibly unsettling film?

Before sitting down to watch Dogtooth, I had no idea what I was in for. Whether luckily or unluckily, I found out within the first five minutes of the film that it would be best to throw all expectations out the window. Director Giorgos Lanthimos delves unapologetically into a world where nudity is explicit yet unsexy and grown children bark like dogs.

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The Greek film (originally entitled “Kynodontas”) invites–or rather forces– the audience into the fenced-in home of a very peculiar family: a father, a mother, and three children (all in their early stages of adulthood). It is clear from the get-go that this is no ordinary household; the siblings play competitive games like young children (the film opens with a scene in which one sister proposes the three of them hold their fingers under burning hot water to see who will pull back first). The father seems to be obsessed with behavioralism; he provides rewards (usually stickers) for the sibling who can “perform” the best. Both he and his wife train their children tirelessly and with zero outside influence, until an intruder– a woman brought in to have sex with the family’s only son– begins to tarnish their so-called perfect world.

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One interesting and noticeable component of the film is the stagnancy of the camera; with the exception of very few shots, there is almost zero camera movement once the stage is set. While the characters stand up, sit down, and move about quite a bit in each scene, we have a limited visibility and are often focused on one single character for an entire scene. This makes us feel all the more trapped inside of this bizarre world, yet still curious to see what may happen next. If anything, this film is wildly unpredictable.

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The dialog: largely curt, matter-of-fact statements delivered with a childish demeanor is oddly reminiscent of a Wes Anderson film– perhaps not all too different from Moonrise Kingdom or even Fantastic Mr. Fox, yet the adult nature of the subjects (and audience) gives the writing a whole new meaning. One scene in particular, in which the two daughters perform a dance in celebration of their parents’ anniversary, brings to mind what a stylistic marriage between Anderson and Kubrick might look like. The visual symmetry contrasted with the characters’ disturbing behavior is astounding.

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Throughout the film, the training of the family’s own dog serves as a sort of allegory to the children’s development; by the end of the film the dog has completed “stage five,” much like the eldest daughter. We are left wondering what this will necessarily mean for her future, as Lanthimos’ film ends as bluntly as it begins.

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4 comments
  1. Laurel Chase said:

    Just watched this for the first time since 2010 last night. Such a coincidence its scary! Also, what do you think about all the sexual undertones in the film? I think its so interesting to think about how we think they’re so weird but then again who is to say we are not the weird ones, eh? Our society shapes what we think about sex and how we have sex the same way their parents shape (or rather dont shape) the way they approach it… I say as I wipe mallomar crumbs off my computer… *_*

    • souffle said:

      Really weird! It was my first time watching it… I feel like you’re right; the film was basically a fictional study on how people develop without any outside influence (i.e. media) and it definitely seemed to emphasize that sex drive is inherent. I guess one way to put it is the film asks us to question our idea of what is “normal,” especially in regards to sex. But was the director trying to tell us that who we direct these sexual feelings toward is dictated by society? Maybe. Also hahaha mallomars ūüėČ

  2. Very well-written! We got a future Roger Ebert right here.

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