Stars: Christos Stergioglou, Michele ValleyDirector: Giorgos LanthimosRelease Date: January 25, 2011MPAA Rating: Unrated
Let’s play a game, yeah? Let’s turn on the hot water faucet and all stick our fingers underneath the stream of scalding hot water. The person to leave their finger in the longest is the winner. It’ll be a game of endurance. Does that sound like fun? Or would you rather see who can hold their breath underwater the longest? These are the games the children play in the Greek film Dogtooth.
What am I saying- “children?” They are in their late teens to early twenties. They have no names and are simply known throughout the film as brother, older sister and younger sister. They live in a house that has a tall fence surrounding it. They live with their mother and father who have taught their children everything they know. Not all of what they have been taught is on the level. Did you know that zombies are little yellow flowers? Yeah, me neither.
Their children have been taught that they are not to enter the outside world until their “dogtooth” comes out of their mouths. That will be a sign of maturity and they will be ready to leave the confines of their home. Until then, however, they are forced to spend their days being obedient, subservient children. They are forced by their parents to play games and the winners are rewarded with stickers. These children are being taught to fear the outside world as much as possible so that they won’t be corrupted by it.
The only visitor allowed into the home is Christina, a security guard who works with the father. The mother and father have deemed her trustworthy enough to come into the home for the sole purpose of keeping their son company (wink wink, nudge nudge). Christina offers the older sister a gift, but only if the older sister reciprocates with a gift of her own. This action sets off a course of events that will disturb this family’s seemingly idyllic life.
Some movies just make you feel dirty after watching them. The Human Centipede and Antichrist are perfect examples of this and I would surely add Dogtooth to this list. It’s really exciting in the sense that I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen next. By the same token, it was also almost painful to watch. I literally thought to myself, “What the shuck is going on?” several times during this film. You don’t think it can get any weirder or worse, but it does. There are so many rules in this particular family setting, but the film itself has no rules. It does what it wants without caring how it looks or what the consequences might be. There are scenes when you wish the camera would turn away because it’s all so disturbing, but you’re forced to watch everything play out.
Despite, or maybe because, of the fact that Dogtooth is as brave as it is with its brutal look at a protective family gone wrong, it was nominated this year for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards. If you’re looking for an escape from your everyday, ordinary movies, I highly recommend Dogtooth.