Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dogtooth (2009)*****

Dir: Yorgos Lanthimos

Review by guest blogger Shu Zin

DOGTOOTH is a Greek film about a fanciful and eccentric family, ruled by a control freak father and his compliant wife. They are determined to shield their children from the rugged, nasty world at large through fear and misinformation, isolating them from outside human influence. The result is 3 near-adult siblings who have no clue about society, while they are smart, disciplined and well-educated about math and science, having been home-schooled. The parents, together with the progeny, 2 sisters and a brother, live in a big house with generous grounds and a swimming pool.

I don’t pretend fully to understand what this film means to say, except to insist that the result is a delicious, wickedly funny and completely engrossing film, wildly original, violent and sexy and thought-provoking. I would disagree with those reviewers who say it is an overheated, didactic film about the down side of overprotecting children. What comes across for me is that, no matter how protected from outside influences children are, human nature will out. Rebellion, violence, politics, self-preservation, commerce and sexual expression happen, no matter what exposure to whatever society humans are denied.

It is hard to characterize the things that occur in this movie, but there are many, many deadpan and hilarious moments and a distinct chill around the edges. One of the funniest is when the two sisters decide to have a contest/game; it consists in the two of them anaesthetizing themselves with ether they use in their study of medicine. The first one to wake up, wins. The director handles this scene in the driest possible way; what we see is hilarious and to the point.

There is also an evening entertainment featuring a family dance performance that is at once very funny and oddly affecting. That the eldest, a daughter, finally escapes and ends up where she does is the droll icing on the cake, subtle, dark and screamingly funny. The film is beautifully shot on the family estate, with a few scenes at the father’s workplace. The situations that arise are always surprising, and there is no question that some developments will cause intense discomfort. My advice? Watch this gem with your mind engaged, think it through, let yourself laugh, and enjoy the complete originality of this bizarre offering. I was hyper-attentive from start to finish, and this is one I’ll revisit more than once. Highly recommended.

Review by guest blogger Shu Zin


Lemmy Caution said...

Dying to watch this. Keep reading about it. Just scored a copy the other night and plan on checking it out this weekend. Can't wait.

Tiger said...

I didn't really enjoy this one at first, thinking it was overhyped. I didn't get any of the humor which you mention.

But then one thing struck me: The parents never really hurt the children. That is to say, everything they do, they do because they genuinely believe what they are doing is the best thing for their offspring. And the funny thing (to me) is that they might actually be right!

Most people have probably wondered at one point, if things weren't actually better before we had all the technology and lived in a much "simpler" society, than we do today.

So who are we to judge?

Also, if you zoom out a bit and look at it more symbolic, it might also say something about how strange the traditions and rituals of another culture can look for an outsider. But to the people who are brought up that way, it will be US who are the strange ones.

If you look at documentaries like Jesus Camp, where children are "protected" from learning about the theory of evolution, and taught that the books and films of Harry Potter is the Devil, then Dogtooth suddenly doesn't seem so "out there" after all.

I might be stretching the ideas of Dogtooth far outside of what the filmmakers intended with all these ideas, but it made me appreciate the film on a whole other level.

Anonymous said...

Loved your ideas, Tiger - One measure of a film's value/success is that it might be interpreted on more than one level. Dogtooth is, I think, such a film. I laughed a lot during this film, which doesn't diminish the poss that the filmmakers had serious points to make - but there were, for me, hilarious bits throughout,*SPOILER ALERT* and I just found it so darkly ironic that the daughter who escaped ended up in the trunk of her father's the parking lot of his work...That lingering closing look at the trunk, knowing what's inside, her "taste of freedom"...oops...just cracked me up. Cheers! Shu Z

Elevator to the Gallows Turns 60

Louis Malle’s Elevator to the Gallows is a stylish and seductive thriller about a murder plot gone terribly wrong. But unlike most th...