When bizarre goes too far: Dogtooth review

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.

some scenes achieve a perfect level of bizarre

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”.

but that's all the film has to offer

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.

2 thoughts on “When bizarre goes too far: Dogtooth review

  1. Dogtooth is far from pointless. Its exploration of human conditioning can be interpreted in reference to any power structure, which is why its ambiguity is such a strength. If the film somehow ” explained” itself as representing facist power, for example, it would be limiting its meaning.

    Also, the film does dive into the inner struggles of the children. For example, towards the end of the ” dance scene,” one of the daughter’s suppressed sexuality becomes painfully clear as she bursts into an outrageous sexual moves- it’s like she’s ready to explode . here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLOy4_tzXHY

  2. it may have been partially explained in the scene between the co-workers, where the father explains his wife’s psych issues. the explanation is somewhat obvious anyway. everyone knows someone with overbearing parents.pathologically attached to their children. it’s easy for someone with a mostly normal family to dismiss Dogtooth as an impossible fiction, but deranged parents are out there everywhere. If Munchausen Syndrome is possible so are the kind of parents in Dogtooth.It’s kind of like a family that turns into a cult. The children are the brainwashing victims of the parents, kept captive by their own psychological conditioning.
    I thought it was an excellent film, though the ending left me pretty disappointed. There should have been at least a few more mintues where we see if she gets away, if the father gets arrested, something to offer a better conclusion than that.

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