Jan 7, 2011


Dogtooth is a Greek drama that centers around the confinement of a family, not just the three teenagers but for the mother and father as well. Why such a false habitat has been erected is not questioned nor answered. For these three children, two sisters and a brother, nothing exists other than family, fortitude, and a brooding sexuality jumping between each sibling. To sum up Dogtooth while giving away critical information is cinema blasphemy. But to not discuss the finer points and analyze this confined hell is a worse decision. After all, Dogtooth may be one of the most effective and poignant films of 2009. Opening with a cassette player, several words are announced and defined. Words that you and I know mean specific things, but to these deprived denizens of a sterile resort, a word as renown as "zombie" is dictated to be a small yellow flower. Immediately from the start, Dogtooth hooks you in with such an absurd way-point of life, the definitive dysfunctional family. Going beyond the boundaries of The Truman Show, Dogtooth employs similar principals of a grand reclusion but takes the game to a level of extremity that only Todd Solondz would occupy.

The meticulous details mean the most in Dogtooth. Director Yorgos Lanthimos takes great measures to support and adhere continuity to progression. Then he takes the next critical step by adjusting the formula of isolation, finally contorting it by taking logical events and putting an eerie spin on something as natural as an airplane over passing. They tweak such a common phenomena (to present standards) and make a bumbling race to retrieve the airplane that occasionally "crashes" in the backyard as an award the golden child. From this, similar instances are built around birth, cats, dogs, music, even film. There is no area left unscathed by the directing crew of Dogtooth. This film is, after all, undermining "the dangers of innocence". Thus, the main crack in their routine of absurdity is exploited by a security guard stationed at their father's workplace. Paid for sex and services, Christina is the common whore, one who exploits the eldest daughter's innocence for cunnilingus. Just as a child could sense that certain acts be deemed perverse or unnatural at such a young age, the eldest daughter too could eventually peer behind the veil of such a comically deranged situation. The eventual breakdown of Christina's will leads to the epiphany at the end of Dogtooth. Rather than revelation, the slow mental deterioration is shocking. Through an experience with her brother, the eldest languishes during an anniversary celebration, erupting in the most powerful scene in Dogtooth, save for the given: the ending. If you've seen the film, you know that of which I speak is the traditional Greek dance gone interpretive seizure.

 Judging from the uniforms you'd imagine you're witnessing an unauthorized sequel to Haneke's Funny Games. Both films bare a slight resemblance from costume to sadistic trials, although Funny Games actually depicts a game of sorts. Dogtooth is just a cluster of taboos built to be broken. These taboos lead to scenes of graphic sexuality, which may or may not include heavy incest. Not to be a stickler, I admit finding myself increasingly aroused by several visions of Yorgos' put to film. Ambiguity is Dogtooth's strongest suit of all. You'll find yourself scratching your head during the frozen credits and this is after you question the motives of the parents. What could possibly drive the father, the successful man whose home be a haven, a paradise, to shelter and contain his children in such a way? Under these irresponsible conditions shines a light of true intentions, though. Forced to quickly consume two glasses of orange juice, the token son works out regularly and exercises to further his virility and his machismo for Christina's "special" visits. Also up for display is a very critical scene in which the elder daughter manages to secure two VHS films, Rocky and Jaws. The effects of the films on the infantile adult is astounding - her behaviors alter suddenly into violent mimicry and outbursts of anger. It's an important statement towards the effects of violence to the soft-minded but I refuse to martyr film, my biggest influence, as venomous.

As what Shyamalan visually degraded with his film The Village, Dogtooth pulls off to a remarkable degree. Some could argue that Dogtooth is a slow film. It's not a slow film in the slightest, it's steady, not slow. The pacing is concise to the scenarios of the nuclear family being exhibited indulging in debauchery. What Dogtooth does is something so sinister yet so appealing, the human child stripped of society, interaction, and the arts. What you witness is what could be a likely assessment to a post-holocaust situation. Strangely, Dogtooth seems to fit right in as a pseudo-dystopian atmosphere with uninhibited portentous magnetism. Quite simply, no words or comic monologue could substitute the effect that Dogtooth will leave on you. Whether disgust spreads or fetishes you didn't realize you had spring to fruition, the ending is certainly the mark to be left occupying this slice of serious Greek cinema. Dogtooth has been appropriated as a dark comedy. While the context is wholly humorous, you'd be pressed to find yourself laughing at that twisted going-ons. I've never seen a Greek film like this and it might be quite a while before we see another one, so dig in.


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