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Sunday, May 19

Dogtooth will rock your world

To what extent would you go to protect your children? Where do you draw the line between being a cautious parent and an insane, perverse control freak? Is the human being submissive by nature or inquisitive to the bone? These are the fundamentally vexed questions that Dogtooth raises. And, let me tell you from the very beginning that this is, by far, one of the most bizarre and challenging movies I have ever seen- my shocker of the year, so far.


Dogtooth, the Greek film directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, is about an isolated family with three teenage children, living on a remote, confined property. The two girls and the boy follow the absurd rules set by the father, working as a factory manager, and the mother, the housewife that takes care of them daily. They live cut off from the rest of the world, constantly reminded that they are to leave the house when they lose their dogtooth. The father pays Christine, a security guard at the factory where he works, and takes her to the house, on a blindfolded journey, to have sex with the boy. When the arrangement no longer works, the parents decide to let the son, also blindfolded, choose which sister seems more suitable to replace Christine. The elder daughter silently obeys the decision and after reluctantly sleeping with her brother, dances madly and once everybody has gone to sleep, repeatedly hits her teeth with a dumbbell to take off the canine. Afterwards, she hides in her father's trunk for the rest of the night and travels with him to the factory yard. Will she come out of the car and find the courage to step into a world under the imminent danger of the ferocious, mighty cat? Or has she been too abused into blind submission and needs further guidance?


Jacques Rivette, one of the more experimental of the French New Wave directors, believed that the purpose of the cinema was to remove the viewer from his comfort zone and throw him into reality. Dogtooth is a powerful movie that shakes your cosy little world and makes you wander how twisted we are and how easily we can come up with excuses for ourselves. There is absolutely no love in the eyes of the abusive parents who occasionally beat their children and submit them to the oddest treatments. They go to outrageous extent to keep them safe, messing them up in ways that are beyond understanding; however, the movie implies that, despite the most dreadful confinement, there is an inner need for sexual exploration and a constant urge for freedom in every human being.


The movie makes you think of a wild, perverse experiment meant to shock your senses; there is frontal nudity and sex, deprived of any shred of intimacy or sensuality, robot-like behaviours, scenes of violence and abuse and a mixed feeling of sadness and repulsiveness. It is as if the whole movie lacks purpose and rhythm. The absurd situation reminded me of films such as M Night Shyamalan's The Village or Peter Weir's The Truman Show, which also displayed artificial environments meant to keep the people safe and prisoners, at the same time. It is in ourselves to try to control the young minds and shape them according to our morality and standards; it is also up to us to choose a more innocent Santa Claus approach or to traumatise them, by taking more pleasure in the process rather than in the outcome. If, above all, Yorgos Lanthimos tried to get the viewers to question themselves and the world around them in the most provocative and dysfunctional manner possible, then, as far as I'm concerned, mission accomplished!