Film review: Dogtooth (Kynodontas)

Dogtooth (2009)

Dir. Giorgos Lanthimos

Some people will do anything for a quiet life. The ‘seen and not heard’ rule, nannies and corporal punishment are all examples of this but Father has his own methods. His far from pubescent daughters think that ‘play’ means to inhale anaesthetic and ‘race’ to see who wakes up first. He does, however, pay for his employee Christina to have sex with his son and even if he does think that a pussy is a ‘big light’ he can at least impress her with the merit stickers on his rickety single bed. Aside from creating an alien vocabulary, the parents have mastered lip-reading, never cry in front of the children and have convinced them that their non-existent second son was fatally wounded by a cat. This later prompts Son to attack an invading moggy with a pair of shears and when Christina trades copies of Jaws and Rocky for sexual favours from Older Daughter, the blindfold Father has imposed on his family starts to unravel.

For a film that features sibling incest, Dogtooth is suitably disturbing. Watching two full grown adults scrabble after a model airplane or Father calmly duct-tape a video cassette to his hand in order to beat Older Daughter over the head are just a couple of the scenes that will extract gasps. It is hard to know what to make of a film where the characters down an entire glass of orange juice or milk at once for fear that will lose its freshness or where we are invited to watch two mature women scamper around in swimming costumes with a childish ignorance of the signification of their own bodies.

Even outside his perimeter fence, Father’s conversation is stilted and distant and the film has a starkness that extends beyond the clinical white walls of the isolated homestead. The final scene where the camera is fixed on the boot of Father’s car is too long, leaving us to ponder if there really is a convincing message behind its grotesque contents.

Showing at Cameo Picturehouse until May 20th


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