Starring: Christos Stergioglou, Angeliki Papoulia, Mary Tsoni
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Running Time: 94 mins
Dogtooth (Κυνόδοντας) is a Greek film about three teenagers who live closed up in their house, isolated from the outside world, because their over-protective parents say they can only leave when their dogtooth falls out.
The original breakout work of Yorgos Lanthimos, director of later hits such as The Lobster and The Killing Of A Sacred Deer, Dogtooth is an exceedingly bizarre film, featuring everything from brilliant dark comedy to brutal violence. In that, it’s a striking watch, and Lanthimos’ unrelentingly weird style is great throughout, however it doesn’t quite have the depth or intrigue that some of his later films do, with the story here getting a little smothered by that very style.
Before I get into that, I think it’s best to warn anyone beforehand that Dogtooth isn’t a movie for the faint-hearted. You may have seen The Lobster or The Killing Of A Sacred Deer, both of which are very, very dark films, however there’s something a whole lot more intense about Dogtooth.
For one, it really doesn’t hold back when it comes to showing some very brutal moments in stark and often terrifying frankness. Whether that be scenes of graphic nudity and sex, or some serious violence (with the film’s portrayal of domestic violence coming across as most disturbing), Dogtooth is never one to shy away from showing things that will easily make you feel genuinely repulsed.
So, why would you watch this movie then? Well, as intense and dark as the film is, it does tell a riveting story that brings the importance of knowledge and independence into focus, as we see three innocent teenagers’ lives set out for them in bizarre and unpleasant fashion by their parents, and they’re unable to ever question anything about their lives because that’s all they know about the world.
Much like the eerie nature of The Virgin Suicides, or even the devastating loneliness of the mother and son in the first half of Room, the isolated lives that these children are forced to live through no fault of their own is really rather horrifying to see, yet it proves a striking portrayal of how a father and mother can abuse their power and responsibility as parents, as well as the impact of living such a sheltered existence in any case.
Lanthimos’ style is one that helps to retain the horror and drama of the story, and yet bring a strangely pleasing anarchism to the film as well. Much like his later English-language works, the characters here deliver their lines in completely deadpan fashion, and even if you don’t understand Greek, that bizarre technique still has a strong effect in creating a more eerie and alien atmosphere around everything that in part reinforces the darker side of the story, as well as bringing some good dark comedy to the table.
The biggest problem that I had with Dogtooth, however, was the fact that it’s a movie that’s just a little too difficult to tune into, because that strikingly bizarre atmosphere proves so overpowering. From the start, it’s hard to really get to grips with what’s going on, and to understand more about the motivations and history of the family, and why they have gone so far in this bizarre situation, something that’s worsened by a lack of character depth (particularly in the father and mother characters).
As a result, as much as I was struck by the film’s unique style, I found it really rather difficult to get to grips with, simply sitting for a good while struggling to understand what was going on, which is why I’m giving Dogtooth a 7.3 overall.