Published Sep 22, 2009The family dysfunction saga is always a ripe area for impressionable new directors. And with only one other feature to his name, Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos creates a disturbing netherworld in the Greek countryside for his supremely messed-up family.
All the family members are unnamed, with the patriarch controlling the actions, and even the thoughts, of his wife, two daughters and son. The teenage children are educated solely via cassette tapes dictated by the father, to the point where any word indicating a world beyond their compound is fiction (i.e., "the sea" is their name for an armchair, "zombies" are flowers, etc.).
Sexuality is also under strict control, with only the female security guard, Cristina, from the father's work facility allowed into the house to provide sexual release for the strapping young son. From here, the structure of the dynamic starts to slip; Cristina manipulates one daughter for her own sexual healing and ancient Hollywood videotapes start to influence the children's vernacular, leading to amusing scenes consisting solely of dialogue from Jaws and Rocky.
As movie quotes and incest increase, the laughs become much more uncomfortable and the violence and consequences escalate. The stark setting and ultra-dry humour provide audiences with bittersweet relief from the harrowing vision Lanthimos presents. A familiar Lynch-ian feel permeates the house, but in contrast to Lynch's more out-there moments the significance of the seemingly random moments develop with tension and humour.
Look for Dogtooth to eventually gain cult status while hopefully giving Lanthimos a broader palette to work with for his next feature. The self-contained nature of the film may be too claustrophobic for some viewers but those who find humour in the uncomfortable will enjoy it. (Boo Productions)