Forgive me if I don’t totally “get” Dogtooth, Yorgos Lanthimos’ bizarre Greek drama (comedy?) about three teenagers imprisoned by their parents in a house unexposed to the dangers of the outside world. I suppose this is the kind of artsy film that deserves praise for its off-beat, adventurous attitude, but God help me if it doesn’t just seem like Lanthimos had a one-liner idea and put it on film. Dogtooth is bizarre, and that’s pretty much all it’s got to offer. It makes no excuses, and should be commended for that, but it also makes no attempt at explanations, and that’s where Dogtooth falls short.
The movie opens with the three unnamed teenagers listening to a cassette tape recorded by their parents as a kind of daily lecture, defining the morning’s new set of words, like: “‘Shotgun’ is a beautiful white bird”, instead of a firearm. The remainder of the film explores the other facets of the grand charade the parents raised their children under: “Fly Me to the Moon” isn’t sung by Frank Sinatra but their dead grandfather, singing “My parents are proud of me, because I do my best” instead of “Let me play among the stars.” They think they have a brother outside the perimeter of the house whom they throw slices of bread to in private. When a cat somehow gets onto the property, their father uses it as an opportunity to further emphasize the dangers of the outside world by concocting a story that their brother was torn apart by a creature like the one they saw, “the most dangerous animal there is”. The boy has an arranged sexual relationship with a woman from the outside, and the girls enjoy licking each other in exchange for glow-in-the-dark headbands. The movie’s title references the family rite of passage that a child is ready to leave the house when their left or right ‘dogtooth’ falls out, because, “at that time, the body is ready to face all dangers”.
If the film were more about the inner struggles of the children and the motives of the parents (in other words, about more than just their strange day-to-day life) Dogtooth might have been more effective.Why exactly the parents feel the need to succumb themselves to such a difficult charade is never addressed. Without any motive, the parents’ actions don’t rise above complete lunacy. The point is made early — these people are messed up — but the formulation of a message behind Dogtooth‘s madness is never even attempted.
Enjoyable in spurts, but overall pointless, Dogtooth is mostly just a strange portrait of a really strange family. Take it or leave it.