Review: Dogtooth

Dogtooth (18)

Dir. Giorgos Lanthimos (Greece)

Starring. Christos Stergioglou, Michelle Valley, Aggeliki Popoulia, Mary Tsoni

4.5/5 stars

The credits never really ‘rolled’ on Dogtooth, but by the time it ended, everyone knew they had witnessed something.

For a few moments the cinema remained eerily silent as the audience sat watching the static screen, waiting for a cue, or a sign, that it was OK to leave; that the movie had, in fact, ended.

And that was the magic of the whole piece –what Artaud called the ‘Theatre of Cruelty.’ Dogtooth positioned the audience outside of the trappings of comfort, so making it impossible not to be affected, for better or worse. It involved the audience on an emotional level in ways that Hollywood can only cheat at.

The storyline is thus: ‘Father’  and ‘Mother’ confine their three adult children to within the boundaries of their compound; not in a Josef Fritzl kind of way, but by feeding them on lies and untruths (such as telling them that cats are ferocious animals and planes are small toys).

The children are as expected – childlike, innocent, and stuck in a perpetual state of curiosity and arrested development. To pass the time, they amuse themselves by out-daring each other in rather harmful endeavours (inhaling anaesthetic being one such game – the winner being the first to wake up, of course).

The children’s world is controlled in every aspect and is one devoid of much culture. They watch only their own homemade videos on T.V., and listen to the ‘Grandfather’s’ records on the stereo (their Grandfather being Frank Sinatra, whose lyrics are translated by the Father into a more family friendly theme).

As the film progresses, Father’s motivations remain intentionally murky, but his role as the patriarchal dictator extends beyond the simple fear of corruption; there is definitely something more ideological on display.

Even though the film has been regarded with epithets of disgust because of the nature of some of the sexual content, Dogtooth has more in common with the likes of The Truman Show and Fight Club than it does with typical European Art/Porny cinema.  The sex on display is distinctly European in it’s realism, but never feels gratuitous.  The crux of each of these films lays in the Platonic ‘Allegory of the Cave’ theory; that human beings will only accept the reality which are presented for so long, before they peer out from the cave and see for themselves.

Dogtooth is an extremely complex film, but not hard to understand. It is one of those rare films that transcends its basic narrative and deconstructs the the nature of how we receive information.  But whether this is to be read as an allegory for rebirth, censorship, religion, class, or any of the above, Director Giorgos Lanthimos has crafted a film with a series of scenes where none are dismissible.

The performances are outstanding all round and the measured tone, calm cinematography and simple editing compliment the film perfectly.

Dogtooth is absolutely one not to miss.


About craig shaw

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