Dogtooth: Perverse Art
Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos (2009)
A father raises his children in an extremely protective way, which brings its own set of problems.
Man, Dogtooth is a fucking trip. It's difficult to explain what it's actually about because it's such a bizarre movie, but it's absolutely worth a watch for anyone who is devoted to extreme or uncomfortable films. A father seeks to protect his children (a boy and two girls) from the outside world, so he holds them on a compound where they are not allowed to leave. In order to avoid exposing them to the outside world, the parents go as far as to teach the children different words for things: a pussy is a great light, a motorway is a heavy wind, and a zombie is a little yellow flower. The children are deliberately given a fucked up view of the world, to the extent that they believe that cats are the most dangerous creatures on Earth, leading the boy to murder one with a pair of gardening shears in an incredibly uncomfortable scene. In order to leave the compound, the parents teach their children that they have to lose their dogtooth (canine tooth). When one of the daughters is ready to leave, well... let's just say she finds an inventive way to remove it.
Goddamn it, EVERY time I floss!
To call Dogtooth a good movie would be a difficult observation to make. It's rather boring at times, but you find yourself staring at the screen, mouth agape, for most of the runtime. Then again, director Yorgos Lanthimos' ouvre is disturbing, overly bizarre, incredibly fucked up films. After making Dogtooth, he made The Killing of the Sacred Deer and The Lobster, both of which are weird as all hell. While Dogtooth may not be the most bizarre of his filmography, it is perhaps the most disturbing. Filled with themes of deceit, isolationism, and even incest, you'll pick up new things every time you watch the film, if you can stomach it to watch it more than once. As far as disturbing films go, it's not as off-putting as other films in that category, but there is something about it that will stick in your head for years after seeing the film. You can't really ask for too much more out of disturbing cinema.
The acting is incredible, and the lack of score throughout most of the film, as well as the flat, monotone cinematography, allows the viewer to buy completely in to the absurd premise of the film. It has very strong correlations to an earlier Mexican film called The Castle of Purity, which was based on real events about an abusive father who isolated his family. As a father, I get wanting to protect your children from the outside world, because there's a lot of scary shit out there. The question that Dogtooth forces us to ask is whether the events within our own households, if left to their own, misinformed devices, may perhaps be even more disturbing than the things we see outside our doors.
There is also the question of development. Whether you like it or not as a parent, your child is going to grow older, and the aging process leads to appetites that are wildly different from childish desires. Whether physically, emotionally, or sexually, all children eventually grow into adulthood seeking out different experiences. No matter how we may seek to control these changes, and whether we desire them to be insular or external, the changes will indeed happen. There is a reason, after all, why you have to have these conversations with your children before they are necessary. While it would be easy enough to dismiss the actions of the father in the film as being just overly protective, his encouragement of incest, as well as his own sexual proclivities with the mother, are bizarre and disgusting. I would hope that most parents would not take this route no matter how protective they may be.
Dogtooth really is a film that you have to see to truly understand. It's also a great film to recommend to your friends: if they still want to be friends with you after watching this on your recommendation, you know you have a ride or die right there. It's an incredibly disturbing film, and I promise you it will leave you with more questions than answers. It's also a beautifully made piece of art. Great art, as they say, makes you feel something. Disgust and discomfort are feelings too, and Lanthimos does his level best to raise the levels of both to their peak values. I won't recommend that you watch Dogtooth, but I will tell you that it's incredibly value as cinema art, even garnering an Academy Award nomination. Choose to watch it at your peril, and don't blame me if you never want to have children.
Man, the Shining twins sure have grown...
Who this movie is for: Foreign film lovers; Appreciators of film as art; Single parents
Bottom line: It's one of the best films that you'll probably only want to see once, and once is often enough with films like this. It'll stick in your mind for years, and the "social experiment" questions that it will raise are as difficult to answer as they are to dismiss. If you're looking to watch the most disturbing film out there, while at the same time having a higher standard than those who consume torture porn, Dogtooth may very well be right up your alley.