Movies to Watch (or Not to Watch) When Bored — “Dogtooth”

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January 28th, 2013
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Be aware that there are a ridiculous amount of spoilers coming.

“Dogtooth” (dir. Yorgos Lanthimos, written by Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou) is a freakish psychological study of a family of five that is almost completely cut off from society. The father (Christos Stergioglou) works at a nondescript plant in Greece to support his wife, son, and two daughters, who never leave the confines of their garden. In the ninety-four minutes of runtime, the audience is exposed to a plethora of psychological oddities and afflictions- masochism, sadism, incest, isolation, and more. The father and mother are entirely responsible for the children’s education and well being (like in most nuclear families), but they forbid any outside interference and even go as far as cutting off water bottle labels so that the children remain unaware of everything beyond the garden gate.

The family dynamic in “Dogtooth” is complex and frightening, and the psychological impact on the children, conceivably, is very severe. Those results, I think, are only localized representations of a greater story. For example: the father very clearly favors his son over his daughters, right to the point of hiring a pretty security guard from his workplace to quench his son’s sexual thirst once a week- right on schedule. The daughters are not given this (and I hesitate to use this word) gift — it is seen as a duty. When the female security guard brings in pornography, and shows it to one of the daughters, the father becomes enraged and attacks the security guard in her own apartment. Because the security guard is no longer usable for the son, the father orders the eldest daughter to have sex with her brother, which causes the eldest daughter to experience a blitzkrieg of psychological terrors.

I think that moments like these, when the profound abusiveness of a completely censored household turns into physical and mental abuse, are the ones that make “Dogtooth” one of the most intense social commentary-experiments. The family functions as a metaphor for government or state control with of a type of reward system (this was especially apparent to me when the children use stickers that mark proper behavior or achievement to win the right to watch a movie, or listen to a song, etc.), government control of sexuality and sex acts (e.g. the security guard as a prostitute), sexism (that much I have already made obvious), government censorship as the stumbling block of real knowledge (e.g. when the father cuts off water bottle labels), and of course, the inevitable revolution (e.g. when the eldest daughter smashes out her teeth with a weight, and then hides in the trunk of her father’s car), which changes the dynamic in which the subjects operate.

“Dogtooth” is difficult to watch. There is a great deal of tension, and the violence that does happen is terrifying, although mild. It is, however, significant in that it is a thought experiment plain-and-simple; Lanthimos and Filippou dissected the complexities and consequences of what happens when the governing power, be it the state or the parental unit, operates as a dictatorship. It is certainly chilling and certainly worth watching.

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