Tuesday 29 June 2010

Review: Dogtooth AKA Kynodontas

Year: 2009 (UK release 2010)
Director: Giorgos Lanthimos
Screenplay: Efthymis Filippou, Giorgos Lanthimos
Starring: Christos Stergioglou, Michele Valley, Aggeliki Papoulia, Mary Tsoni, Hristos Passalis, Anna Kalaitzidou

I'll try and set the scene quickly:

Coming out of the screen; one women stated that the film was horrific. My girlfriend didn't speak to me until we got to the car. I still found myself cackling to myself a little until I got to my laptop. Despite the films bright lighting, Dogtooth is pitch black dark, with aesthetics which could reminded one of Hanke and a morbid sense of humor that would lend itself to the more absurd aspects of author Chuck Palahniuk. Taking Larkins "This Be The Verse" most famous line to extremes, to say these parents have "fucked up" their kids isn't saying enough.

What made Dogtooth so appealing to me, is it's stance on parenting and conditioning. With it's precise play of taboos; to show this to the hilariously reactionary British tabloids would have the screaming at the top of their voice that this film would have to be banned to "save the children". They would be clearly missing the message, as Dogtooth's satirical point is to remind us that it goes both ways. The unnamed father of the piece does everything to dilute and askew his children's preception of reality...however by the time the fearful trio kill "the most dangerous animal in the world" you see that his method of safety has gone too far. What's the animal? Watch the film.

The film takes a while to get going; highlighting the altered facets of family life piece by piece, we slowly beginning to release the bizarre and perverse methods that the parents have taken to keep their kids "pure". Suddenly an outside characters almost senseless meddling slowly creeps in and infects the children's perceived "innocence". The changes become as unsettling as the over-protective parenting, because as the kids up the ante with their naive actions, the punishments become more ghoulish. While it takes a while for Dogtooth to hit the right stride, once it gets there, it becomes a fascinating feature. The more absurd the scenes get, the absorbing the film becomes.

I'm restraining from saying too much about what happens in the actual film itself, as this is a something that is more effective the less you know. Other reviews have mentioned the aspects of American culture it's taken to help push forward the film's themes of total isolation, but it's part of the fun when you find out for yourself. It's also best to keep the films most extreme moments hidden as it it's all a fanatically crafted build up to the films abrupt (and yet perfectly unsettling) ending which stuck with me on the way home.

From a technical aspect, this is a stunningly beautiful film, filled with that lovely visual symbolism that film nerds will enjoy pompously pondering over at coffee houses, while wearing black polo necks and berets. Many of the scenes filmed in clear sunny daylight to go against the utter pitch black madness we see happening infront of us. The family's pool is another wonderfully utilized element, taking a harmless moment of play and crafting it into a sly double meaning of literally still being in utero. This moment alone makes the films last shot all the more dark. Dogtooth is also fantastically performed, with the trio of kids playing up to the naivety of their situation while the father figure (Christos Stergioglou) gives a magnificent deadpan display that only enhances the abstract humor of the film.

With all this said, who could I recommend this film to? I know a few people...but it's a small few. Remember what I said before, my girlfriend didn't talk to me, the woman who stated it was horrific? To say this film isn't for everyone is stating the bleeding obvious. But to those who like their films dark, oddball and European...you shouldn't go wrong with this.