Strange as they come.
Dogtooth is about a Greek “family man” and his wife who’ve created a commune/prison/bio-dome of sorts out of their humble home in order to raise their three grown children in seclusion from the outside world. So the kids spend their days engaging in various games and endurance contests, counting the stickers they’ve won, and that’s cool by them because that’s all they know. But then Pops starts paying an outsider to sex up his only son, she starts causing trouble, accidentally exposes the eldest daughter to some of the outside world’s simple pleasures, and that’s when things start to go downhill.
In a nutshell, it’s like a bizarro dark dramedy about The Fritzl family, only without all that paternal rape stuff. No idea what would compel someone to write a script about something like that, sure wasn’t the first thing that came to mind when I saw the dad’s creepy-ass mugshot, but for something so insanely weird, it’s actually pretty watchable.
Geez, I really don’t know where to start with this one. As tragic and horrific as the whole Fritzl story is, there is an odd fascination that comes with it all. Like, how does someone get to the point where they can manufacture a life like that for their freakin’ kids and how would you deal with it as the said kids even if it was “normal” to them for all intents and purposes. And that’s what this is: a bubble where right, wrong and morality have been tossed to the wind in order to create a subjectively pleasant existence fueled by competition, family “values” and sibling incest.
But as much as this movie left one big “WTF” expression on my face from beginning to end, it is kinda funny, too. Stuff like the parents giving them the wrong definitions for words (eg: a “zombie” is a tiny yellow flower, a “pussy” is a bright light, yada, yada, yada) so that when one of them asks for the “telephone” at the dinner table she gets the salt shaker passed her way. Even better is when they listen to an LP of their “grandfather” singing “Fly Me to the Moon” while their dad translates the lyrics into a ditty about how much Ol’ Blue Eyes loves his home and obeying his parents.
I’m sure I’m doing a shit job at selling this out of context and it’s not like this is gut-bustin’ material to begin with, but the way the characters are so dead serious/ambivalent about the otherwise ordinary aspects of their lives makes it come off that much crazier from a third-party perspective. That’s the formula for every laugh here, and for some reason it often works.
It’s also one of those movies that doesn’t come with an MPAA rating but probably would have landed an NC-17 with ease had it been made stateside. With the exception of one scene that plays into the charming screengrab below, it’s not so much a tough movie to watch as it is taboo by all our normal, civilized standards. Let’s just say that this family is about as shy with their bodies as Adam and Eve were before that whole forbidden fruit incident went down, and if that eldest son needs satisfyin’, he’s gonna get it from someone, family or otherwise. If The Bradys got busy with The Mansons, this crew may very well be the next two generations of spawn to pop out. Those dirty hippies from The Village ain’t got shit on these guys.
I wouldn’t blame you for giving up by now, but there’s actually more to this freakshow than everything I’ve mentioned thus far. To his credit, writer/director Giorgos (or Yorgos) Lanthimos does have a solid script at his disposal and does do a good job of making these Looney Tunes surprisingly easy to connect with. He keeps the tone consistent and the tone is just right since this would have been royally depressing without the humor to balance things out. And while there ain’t much about these folks that I can empathize with, they do actually feel like a family which their own unique wants and desires and a dynamic that ebbs and flows at a gorgeous pace.
Good acting from everyone, too. Rather than riddle off everyone’s unpronounceable Greek name, I’ll just address them as a whole since they all get really into their roles. Very deadpan, very enthusiastic, and very convincing considering the nutso nature of the being. Might be the biggest aspect that ties all the madness together into one neat little whole.
So, yeah, Dogtooth is fuckin’ bonkers. I’m personally amazed that I’ve managed to squeeze this much to say out of a movie that could have easily been summed up with a verdict of What the hell was that?/10. It’s not a bad movie by any means and it’s actually really strong in some regards, but as much as I’d like to give this a 7, it does eventually cross that fine line where things get too weird and start to overshadow the stuff that kept me invested. Definitely an original take on the whole innocent lost riff and it sure makes those moms from Toddlers and Tiaras look like dream parents, just wish I had a better grasp on the deeper meaning behind it all. Tough movie to recommend, but sure will make for some interesting conversation and I can totally see the right audience loving this thing to pieces.
But I do dig that poster. No idea what it means, but the simpler and cryptic-er the better is what I always say.
Pretty sure I say that, like, 30 times a day.