Kynodontas (Dogtooth)

Kynodontas (Dogtooth)

Kynodontas (Dogtooth) (Director: Giorgos Lanthimos): Although I saw this film sev­eral days ago, it’s been dif­fi­cult to put my thoughts into words. Lanthimos has delivered an unfor­get­table and dis­turb­ing film, but not one that is easy to cri­tique or even describe. And though I con­sider myself more of a film reviewer than a critic, it’s even dif­fi­cult to provide any sort of plot sum­mary.

Briefly stated, Dogtooth con­cerns a well-to-do Greek fam­ily, liv­ing in a large sub­urban house. The par­ents of three adult chil­dren have kept them con­fined to the house since birth, teach­ing them their own unique vocab­u­lary (the “sea” is a large arm­chair, the “phone” is a salt shaker, “zom­bies” are small yel­low flowers, etc.). Though the chil­dren appear to be in their twen­ties, they are dressed like chil­dren and spend their days engaged in com­pet­it­ive games to gain the favour of their par­ents. Occasionally, the father pays Christina, the female secur­ity guard at his work­place, to relieve his son’s sexual urges. None of the chil­dren have names.

If this isn’t unset­tling enough, it soon gets worse. Christina takes a lik­ing to the older daugh­ter and gives her gifts in exchange for sexual favours. One of the gifts is a col­lec­tion of VHS movies, which the daugh­ter watches after every­one is asleep. This little bit of the out­side world begins to obsess her. She asks her sis­ter to call her Bruce, and begins quot­ing dia­logue from Rocky and Jaws. She lashes out viol­ently at her brother, and in one har­row­ing scene, dances her­self into a frenzy. When her father finds out the source of this “evil,” he beats Christina and ban­ishes her from their home. In a mat­ter-of-fact but deeply dis­turb­ing con­ver­sa­tion with his wife, they agree that one of the sis­ters will have to take Christina’s place.

The title of the film comes from another of the heart­break­ing lies the par­ents have told their chil­dren. They will be ready to leave the house only when their dog­tooth (eye tooth) falls out. As the older daughter’s des­per­a­tion grows, she takes mat­ters into her own hands, and the res­ults are tra­gic. Aggeliki Papoulia is abso­lutely fear­less in this dif­fi­cult role, and the rest of cast make a strange and dis­turb­ing view­ing exper­i­ence also sur­pris­ingly com­pel­ling.

This is a film of stun­ning visu­als to accom­pany the ideas. The house is dec­or­ated in 70s kitsch style, which rein­forces the feel­ing of being trapped in time. The chil­dren are suf­foc­at­ing in this air­less envir­on­ment, and their sexual and viol­ent urges are treated as some­thing to be con­trolled. Everything that should give them pleas­ure is turned into a com­pet­i­tion or a test of obed­i­ence. In the post-screen­ing Q&A, Lanthimos explained that the gen­esis of the film came out of a dis­cus­sion he had with some friends who were get­ting mar­ried. When he expressed his doubts about the insti­tu­tions of mar­riage and fam­ily, his friends became extremely defens­ive. He decided to make a film about what would hap­pen if a man went to the ulti­mate extreme to pro­tect his fam­ily. In an odd way, the film reminded me of Cleanflix (review), which I’d seen just the day before. The folly of think­ing that evil comes only from out­side of us, or that our nat­ural desires are bad, always leads to tra­gic con­sequences, and yet it is ingrained in our soci­ety. Luckily, it rarely goes to such extremes, but Dogtooth is a par­tic­u­larly unset­tling reminder of the danger of idol­iz­ing the idea of “fam­ily” val­ues.

Here is the Q&A with dir­ector Giorgos Lanthimos from after the screen­ing:

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Duration: 11:38


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2 Responses to Kynodontas (Dogtooth)

  1. Rather sur­pris­ing but wel­come news is that Kino has picked this up for US dis­tri­bu­tion.

  2. Su says:

    This sounds deeply screwed up. I hope the Music Box here in Chicago gets its hands on it.

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