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Aggeliki Papoulia in DOGTOOTH (Photo: Kino International)

DOGTOOTH
Directed by
Yorgos Lanthimos
Produced by
Yorgos Tsourgiannis
Written by Lanthimos & Efthimis Filippou
Released by Kino International
Greek with English subtitles
Greece. 95 min. Not Rated
With
Christos Stergioglou, Michelle Valley, Aggeliki Papoulia, Mary Tsoni, Hristos Passalis & Anna Kalaitzidou
 

If raising three children to adulthood is hard in todayís world, try doing it instead in isolation. Dogtooth depicts a father who has so sheltered his three children from any outside influence, raising them to believe there is nothing but evil outside the fence of the domestic complex, that cats and passing airplanes are predators to be wary of, household items have new, arbitrary names, and the libido is something to be tempered and controlled as if it were body weight or a haircut. The kids resemble some kind of alternate species, not surprisingly, and the fatherís carefully proscribed environment holds together, at least until an outside factor (a local woman hired to satisfy the sonís inevitable sex drive) sows discord within the family.

Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos invents this upper-class family as a grotesque thought experiment, using his film as a social testing laboratory. If it were the Greeks who invented drama, Lanthimos takes it to a new plateau now with this proposed reality. The father is playing God, no doubt, fashioning his three children in this particular image to satisfy his whim, but rarely is it so apparent when a director is doing the same. Take any sci-fi or horror character and stand them against these skewed offspring and Lanthimosí scenario will always be the more unsettling. Dogtooth is like a feeding scene on the nature channelóit appeals to the mind, but not the gut.

The rigor of the dysfunctional home schooling is featured in painstaking detail. The parents act as functionaries, creating a methodology for the mayhem their weird teachings produce. Unfailingly, though, humanity breaks through. The sex drive is impossible to quell, and once the kids have a taste for it, thereís no stopping its motivational force. Violence, too, works its usual spiral. Lanthimos is smart to show us the unexplained scars all over their bodies, indicating previous abuse (by each other, no doubt). Problems are resolved using malevolent force, as usual when human logic is left out of the equation. Once the spiral starts, the father finds he is unable to control what are the deepest of motivations.

If it looks like a cult and walks like a cult, well, then, this family is probably one. Dogtooth is as much an experiment as it is a satire. Not only can your everyday cult following turn sour, but so can any hierarchy that disregards the nature of those at the bottom. Those at the top, take note. A rigid society is a precarious one. To create policy without a thought to the realities of nature will yield a result much like in the allegorical Dogtooth, as nature is all encompassing and unrelenting in the face of a meagerly imposed set of guidelines. Nature always wins. Michael Lee
June 25, 2010

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