Review by Topo Sanchez
SCUM Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The sea is a leather armchair with wooden legs.
A zombie is a yellow flower.
A highway is a gently blowing breeze.
Welcome to the wonderfully weird world of Dogtooth, the story about an overly protective father and how he shelters his family from the ‘dangers’ that lurk beyond their garden compound, at any cost.
Adding on to the misleading brainwashing mumbo-jumbo in the opening sequence, the three anonymous children (two sisters and one brother) are taught that cats are Man’s mortal enemies, airplanes are toys that can be found on the ground, that they have a brother being held captive on the other side of the garden fence, and that they can venture out of the house only after losing their dogtooth.
Other than these sets of twisted rules and beliefs, the children are mostly left to their own devices during the day, when daddy goes to work at a nearby factory as plant manager. Naturally, their underdeveloped minds start to invent games to pass time, like putting their finger under hot running water to see who lasts the longest, or inhaling chloroform to see who wakes up from it first.
Occasionally, daddy spends time with them, training them to go down on all fours and bark like a raving dog to protect themselves against the dreaded Cat, or secretly planting fish in the swimming pool just so he can catch them again to impress the kids. Yes, daddy has thought of everything, including paying his factory colleague, Christina, to do housecalls to satisfy the son’s sexual needs.
But that’s when trouble begins — Christina prefers cunnilingus than intercourse. So to satisfy her own needs, she starts to trade with the elder sister. In the beginning it was a hair clip in exchange for a good licking. Then it was hair gel. Soon, the elder sis drives a hard bargain and manages to get hold of 2 VHS movies off of her, Rocky and Jaws. And she realizes that there is a whole new world outside, beyond their garden fence.
When daddy finds out about the videotapes, he calmly duct-tapes the VHS tape to his hand, and turns it into a face-slapping punishment device on the elder sis. After that, he visits Christina at her home, pulls out her VCR player and again turns it into a face-bashing punishment device on her. Realizing that he can no longer use Christina to relieve his son’s urges, daddy permits son to choose between the two sisters to satisfy his needs.
One afternoon, son spots a cat in the garden and instinctively picks up a gardening shear to tear up the cat, thinking he is defending his family from danger. Daddy sees this as a golden opportunity to reinforce his years of brainwash on the kids, and he enters the house with ripped clothings and covered in blood (all secretly self-induced). He announces that their captive brother on the other side of the fence has been killed by a cat, which he in turn killed, for vengeance. The family then observed an afternoon of mourning, which saw them lobbing flowers over the fence as a sign of final respect to their imaginary brother.
But all is not well. The elder sister’s head has already been stirred, and her curiousity slowly overwhelms her twisted logic. In one of the most memorable scenes of the movie, elder sis performs a dance to pay tribute to daddy and mommy’s anniversary. She goes into an intense trance-like dance sequence that ends with her collapsing in exhaustion, only to get up moments later to gobble down the anniversary cake in irritation. We see that she is feeling restless and agitated, but does not know how to express herself.
Finally, putting together her new found boxing knowledge from Rocky with daddy’s old saying about losing dogtooths, she devises a plan to get out of the house. Let’s just say that it ain’t a pretty sight….
Right from the beginning, the director (Yorgos Lanthimos) was never interested in providing explanations or details. Even the ending is like a pseudo ending. It feels like its not time to leave the cinema yet. But this movie was never about showing the complete picture. Instead, we are being given the privilege to witness a small piece of the puzzle, to quietly observe. There is no need to overload our Logic with the usual Whys and Whats, and definitely not a need for an academic discourse to pinpoint the underlying meanings of each scene. To me, this is the kind of movie where you sit back, relax and let it fill your senses. You will either ‘feel’ its a good movie, or you don’t understand why you just spent 10 bucks to lose 2 hours of your life. But either way, you won’t forget it.
(I am pretty sure there is some sort of a social commentary somewhere in there, North Korea being the first to come to mind, but I shall not bore you readers with that.)
Dogtooth is high up there on my list of cult classics, I highly recommend watching this.