Winner of the Prix Un Certain Regard at Cannes 2009, Dogtooth is the second feature film from Greek filmmaker and theatre director Yorgos Lanthimos.
The film takes place in a rural utopia — that is, a home with a garden inhabited by a family of five: Mother, Eldest Daughter, Youngest Daughter, and Son, presided over by the film’s patriarch. In an ongoing attempt to preserve his children’s innocence, Father propagates a dangerous outside world in which kittens are rabid killers, “zombie” is the name for small yellow flowers, and no-one may leave the property (as it is only safe to do so by car) until they have lost their “dogtooth”.
Walking into this film without context is a beguiling experience. With a layers as deep and twisted as the roots of a robust and ancient oak, to understand this film one must do more than cut it open and count the rings. The complexity of the family’s relationships are fascinating, and systematically become warped, testing the audiences’ resolve as we seek to understand their roles.
The only outside influence comes from Christina, a woman hired by Father to methodically fulfil Son’s sexual impulses. Her own brand of meddling begins with a bribe for Eldest Daughter, and when Eldest begins to recite disturbing lines from popular films, Father finds the tapes given to her by Christina. For their behaviour, each receive a taste of his comeuppance. It seems, however, that the damage has already been done.
Dogtooth has the power to compel and bewilder in spades. Though the characters – particularly Younger Daughter – prove sympathetic, they live in a world so far removed from our own knowledge and perceptions that it feels possible to reach out but never to touch.
With only six characters, the performances in Dogtooth are excellent and key to its success. Mary Tsoni (Youngest) encapsulates the innocence that Father wishes to achieve, though the dark depths of Aggeliki Papoulia’s performance as Eldest has a trickle-down effect that shakes the foundations of the family. It’s a chilling and intriguing film that is well-structured and will stay with you for some time.
Dogtooth (Kynodontas) is currently on limited UK release. It screens at Glasgow Film Theatre 7th – 13th May and at Edinburgh Filmhouse from 9th May – 5th June.
[Image from Wikipedia.]