Sunday, January 30, 2011

DOGTOOTH: Not for the weak of heart

The critically acclaimed (and Academy Award nominated) Greek film Dogtooth was finally released on dvd in the U.S. this past Tuesday.  The basic premise of the film involves an aging couple who have raised their children to fear that which lies outside the gates of their home.  Playing out like some kind of Freudian nightmare sporting a wink and a twisted grin, Dogtooth fashions a world that is fully enclosed within the repressed fantasies and regressed understandings of those now adult offspring.  As the film unfolds, those characters play an endless series of nonsensical games which only partially discharge the sexual friction that grows between them.  And every once in a while, when the safety imposed upon them by their parents is challenged, the father punishes the offender brutally.

Dogtooth resides in the same darkly tense terrain as films like Todd Solondz' Happiness and Michael Haneke's Funny Games.  Like those past films, it provokes without moralizing, interrogates without resolution and leaves the heavy lifting of interpreting the thematics almost entirely to the audience.  With its primary meaning not at all locked down, a post-screening discussion of Dogtooth is likely to produce just as many interpretations as there are audience members in attendance.  My own reading of the film vacillates somewhere between a fairly standard critique of the family and/or the socialization process as it starts at birth and continues until death.  Yeah,'s just that wide open.

A warning: the film is not for the overly squeamish.  There are some truly shocking moments peppered throughout its run time.  It's plenty disturbing but also funny, engaging and completely original in its approach.


One last note: as a bonus feature, the Kino released dvd has an excellent 12 minute interview with director Yorgos Lanthimos on the production, casting and his overall filmmaking philosophy.  Very much worth checking out.

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