Published Jan 20, 2011Judging by latest Greek cinematic exports Dogtooth and Attenberg, the only thing a nation needs to start generating challenging, wholly incisive, exciting art is economic collapse after years of padded living and early retirement. Indeed, these films specifically tackle the notion of harsh, unflattering realities and survival after years of sheltered naïveté while taking decidedly different approaches to their thematic material.
Where Attenberg dissected propagation of species and instinct in relation to environmental change, Dogtooth remains insular, going the pitch black comedy route, detailing a family with three adults hidden from the world beyond their home.
The father (Christos Stergioglou) keeps his family in line with fear tactics, citing various horrors outside the high walls of their home base compound. To stave off animalistic impulses, he brings in Christina (Anna Kalaitzidou) to fornicate with his son (Hristos Passalis), on occasion, which becomes problematic when she starts bribing the older daughter (Aggeliki Papoulia) and younger daughter (Mary Tsoni) with hair bands and VHS tapes of American movies for sexual favours.
Beyond the layered implications of the film, what's interesting is the level of thought and complexity invested in planning this world. The father throws toy planes onto the lawn whenever real ones fly overhead to keep them from finding out about the outer world. He also comes up with alternate definitions for words that imply something hostile or too confusing, such as indicating that a "zombie" is a small, yellow flower.
While it's funny to see three adults terrified of killer cats or awkwardly re-enacting Flashdance sequences for a perplexed family, there's a sense of unnerving horror underneath that cuts to the bone of human socialization and ideations of normalcy. It is knowledge that eventually causes the family to implode, bringing into question not only the sheer helplessness that a lifetime of shelter imposes upon someone, but the human ability to adapt to nastiness for survival.
Strangely nominated for Best Foreign Language Film for the 2011 Academy Awards, Dogtooth doesn't have a chance in hell of winning over traditionalist, trend-driven Oscar voters, but perhaps it will open the door for a broader audience to experience something more confrontational and upsetting than they're accustomed to. (Films We Like)