Dogtooth is disturbing anti-social satire that is shot in an art-house sort of way. After the conclusion of most films, you can form an opinion fairly soon after the final credits roll. But there are some films that are so unique and different that you must let them sit with you for a bit before you can approach a final opinion. Dogtooth fits in the category of the latter. It is possibly the most original movie of the year, perhaps second only to Enter The Void.
The focus of the film is around an isolated family of five; father, mother and their son and two daughters whose ages are probably somewhere in the early twenties. They are given no names to call each other. Their house is surrounded by a very high wall which the children have never been beyond. Furthermore, the children have no clue of what the outside world contains as only the father is allowed to leave the house. The television is only used to watch the family’s home videos. The children learn language lessons from a tape-recorder. To say this family is sheltered would be a great understatement.
The vocabulary that they are learning off the tape is giving wrong definitions to the words. The mother goes along with it as the daughter asks for the phone and the mother proceeds to hand her the salt shaker. This is one of the first indications that the children are obviously being lied to but also how the parents are isolating them from outside contact.
The only outside contact they do get is a visit from the only character with a name, Christina. She works as a security guard at the factory the father works at and is brought in as a prostitute to fulfill his son’s needs. She also trades jewelry in exchange for erotic licking from the daughter, it is just as bizarre as it sounds.
One day the brother spots a cat in their yard and decides to kill it using garden shears. The father lies to the children when he hears this had happened. He tells them that creatures like the one in the garden are the most dangerous creatures out there and that only staying inside will protect them. It is ironic when the father creates so much fear of the outside world to the children, because what is happening inside is far scarier.
The children are fascinated with airplanes that fly over their house and wish they would fall so they can “have it”. They do not know otherwise because their parents from time to time toss a toy one in the yard that they think fell from the sky. Between the toy airplanes and giving them stickers when they complete a task, shows how small-child-like the parents are treating their “children”.
It is not until the father talks to his dog trainer that we understand the blatant metaphor of the film. The trainer explains how dogs are waiting for him to show them how to behave. That is exactly what he is doing with his children back at home. Later we see him teach his kids how to bark like a dog and he teaches them that they are not ready to leave the house until their dogtooth comes out. The name of the film suddenly becomes more clear.
Many people were considering Dogtooth as the dark horse for this year’s Oscars for Best Foreign Film. However, it failed to best In A Better World. Just being nominated for an Oscar is an achievement in it’s own right as it became only the 5th ever Greek film to be nominated for one. However, it did win the prestigious Un Certain Regard Prize at Cannes 2009.
Director Giorgos Lanthimos brilliantly shoots nearly the entire film from a camera at a fixed point. Therefore the viewers are like the children and the camera is like the fence, we are only allowed to see what is inside the frame (or fence). Furthermore, most of the objects and characters are in the center of the frame, giving off the feeling of order and straightforwardness. Similar to what the parents are teaching the children. The colors in the film are dull for the same reason.
Dogtooth leaves most of the interpretations up to the viewer. On one hand it could easily be a direct shot towards parents that over-protect their children to the point of inhuman standards and extreme anti-social practices. Or it could be a political allegory. In a dark way, the film proves that censorship can be just as, if not more, harmful than not. It takes homeschooling to an extraordinary bizarre level. The film shines because of the uniqueness and is memorable from the shock value it provides. It almost goes without saying but I will do it anyways, this film is not for everyone.