Dogtooth (2009)

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

Starring: Christos Stergioglou, Michele Valley and Angeliki Papoulia

“Three teenagers are confined to an isolated country estate that could very well be on another planet.”

Dogtooth is a raw, bizarre look into the lives of an estranged, alienated family who survive on a whole new level. This movie is included on a list of disturbing movies and you know what, I can see why. Involving a family living in an isolated country home in rural Greece, three children are brought up in a primal, submissive environment where words from outside the walls of the home are given new meanings so as not to jeopardise their minds and the way they live. ‘Phone’ means salt, ‘zombies’ are flowers and ‘the sea’ is a leather armchair. Things seem like this family could easily be living on another planet aside from earth, purely because of their lack of knowledge of the world and how life really is. The movie is filmed in a drab, bland manner that really makes the story seem solemn and intense throughout.

Throughout the film, sex and relationships are not acknowledged in the slightest so the two young girls are left to their own devices to realise what sex is through unfortunate bribery by a woman who is paid to relieve the son’s sexual needs. Anything sexual is dismissed by the parents who assign sexual terms new meanings. The games played in the movie get increasingly stranger as it progresses, and they involve using anaesthetic to see who wakes up from it first. The winner of some of these strange games are given stickers which add up to being able to choose the family entertainment for an evening. It shows a severely ostracised way of getting by in a rural society. The acting that was put into this movie needs credit, purely because the actors involved did such a good job at keeping the movie within that creepy, naive boundary that really did the entire piece justice. I do think that the film involves a subtext of growing up and how it can feel alienating and lonely if you don’t have the help and love you need, but that is my personal interpretation.

The film does not contain gratuitous violence, but just enough to get the general point across, such as when the eldest daughter knocks out her canine teeth in order to fulfil the prophecy of being able to leave the confines of the home. There are a few little bits that can be much, but it’s mainly due to sexual nature. There’s moderately graphic sexuality, but it is quite necessary for the development throughout the movie and it’s not a great movie for the easily offended or those who are quick to get weirded out. I would say that this movie is disturbing, purely because of the pure bizarre storyline and cinematography. I really would recommend this film to those who love foreign cinema and for those who are interested to see a slice of the weird and wonderful. It’s not necessarily gratuitous, it’s enough to make a point without shocking or unnecessarily disturbing their viewers to the extremity.

I consider this movie to now be one of my favourite pieces of foreign cinema, so I give Dogtooth a high 4 skulls out of 5.

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