Director Yorgos Lanthimos, who co-wrote “Dogtooth” with Efthymis Filippou, has crafted a film so smart, funny and tragic that it won Prix Un Certain Regard at Cannes last year and nearly swept the Greek Oscars. It’s a bewildering, humorous and sad look at a family raised in isolation.
“Dogtooth” finds a husband and wife raising their three 20-something children, a son and two daughters, wholly within the confines of a sizable compound surrounded by an 8-foot-wall. The “children” have been warned that their bodies won’t be ready for the dangers of the outside world until one of their one of their dogteeth, aka “canines,” falls out.
“The idea is kind of a sci-fi idea, the initial thought behind it: ‘What if, in the future, there were no more families?’" Lanthimos recently explained to The Playlist. While that may have been his starting pointing, the end result is a look at the family on a macro level, with the nation as family.
What unspools is a brilliant absurdist satire about how crippling statist, patriarchal socities are, and what happen can happen when there’s a leak in the carefully maintained bubble.
Lanthimos typically keeps his camera very still. Often framing his and letting his characters move in and out of the frame, even cutting off their heads. The extra wide aspect ratio (2.35:1), coupled with Lanthimos’s composition makes for some gorgeous moments, and the stillness of his frame doubles as a nice echo of the arbitrary boundary of the fence that keeps the kids penned in.
The children are so insulated that they are successfully taught to believe airplanes are actually small toys that fall from the sky and land in their yard, and that “zombies’ are small yellow flowers.
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The only visitor to the family’s home is Christina, a security guard at the factory where the father works, who is brought in to tend to the needs of the son. She inevitably becomes an agent of change, introducing the kids to such nefarious influences as commerce and sparkles and “Jaws” and “Rocky.”
The cast playing the family -- Christos Stergioglou, Michele Valley, Aggeliki Papoulia, Christos Passalis and Mary Tsoni – are all excellent, displaying a willingness to go all-in with Lanthimos’ vision. Anna Kalaitzidou’s reading of Christina feels off, only because she seems only slightly less damaged, without having endured a similar upbringing, but that’s as much – if not more – Lanthimos’ fault as hers.
Throughout "Dogtooth," we watch as the children bark like dogs, fear cats, count the stickers on their headboards and fight over toy airplanes. It's mesmerizing.