Dogtooth, or Kynodontas (2009), is a Greek language drama film directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. It focuses on a very strange family where the father and mother choose to keep their children ignorant of the outside world, even as they grow into adulthood. The father goes to great lengths to ensure that his children never learn about the world outside, but is it possible to keep them ignorant forever?
This film is gripping from the very beginning. It starts with a lesson on tape: the children are practicing their vocabulary for different objects. ‘Shotgun’ means ‘beautiful white bird’. ‘Sea’ means ‘chair’. This opening scene is the perfect setup to a film that bends and boggles the mind; its manipulative use of language is just the beginning. Dogtooth is shot beautifully, and the cinematography is so impressive. Throughout the whole film, even though it is visually stunning, there is a sinister undercurrent that becomes more and more palpable as the plot progresses.
Credit must be given to the actors who play the older sister, younger sister, and the brother. Even though they are clearly adults, their portrayal of child-like people who are ignorant of the outside world is very believable. Particularly the brother character, whose fear in response to outside noises in the nighttime looks perfectly childlike, despite the fact that he is clearly in his mid-twenties or thereabouts. The fact that these characters are essentially children in adult bodies makes the sex scenes and violent moments so much more disturbing. However, even though the sex and violence is extremely graphic, it does not seem gratuitous.
Over the course of the film, we watch as the children learn words, compete in various competitions, and we watch almost clinically during their sexual experiences. But we’re never told the significance of any of these; why the parents teach their children a new vocabulary, why the children must compete with one another, why the sexual experiences are arranged by the parents, why they are kept inside the property in the first place. In order to watch this film, you need to have a healthy tolerance for ambiguity, and you almost have to make your own meaning. The answers for this film are not within this film.
I’m definitely interested in seeing more from this director. Dogtooth is one of those films where you just need to sit and think about it for half an hour after the credits have finished rolling. The film is consistently strange, and very dark. After reading a little bit about it, it looks like it was marketed as a comedy, which absolutely does not fit with the tone of the film; even though there are some funny moments. Overall, this is an extremely uncomfortable film that will lead you to consider your own freedoms.
Watch the trailer here.
Watch this film at Amazon!