Dogtooth (Kynodontas) Reviews
Before anything, this is a film you MUST watch. Period.
For exactly 10 minutes after the credits showed up on screen, I sat there open-mouthed and glued to my seat, unable to control the myriad of feelings that had been stirred inside me while slowly realizing that I had probably watched one of the greatest movies of the century (according to M., this is an unarguable fact).
Two sisters and a brother are raised in a big, secluded house and are made to believe by their parents that they can't go to the dangerous world outside until their dogteeth fall out - a story that you do not fully get your head around until halfway through the film. The background story of why the parents are doing that and to what ends is almost completely overshadowed, as if Yorgos Lanthimos is precluding the emotional attachment and inviting us to examine the significance behind the allegory.
Most of the uncomfortable, eccentric vibes you get down your spine while watching the story unfold are caused by seeing this family living by rules outside our denotative system. They are told facts that run contrary to our common beliefs, they are taught words with different references, and, consequently, experience the world from an alien perspective. The fact that the allegory is presented realistically heightens the absurd element to a great comical extent (a Lanthimos trademark where the anomalous is presented as normal, creating the aforementioned absurd effect). In one scene, as a kind of entertainment, the father plays Frank Sinatra's "Fly Me to the Moon" and tells his kids that this is their grandfather singing. While the kids awkwardly (but joyfully!) dance to the song, he translates the song to them as follows: "Dad loves us. Mom loves us. Do we love them? Yes, we do. I love my brothers and sisters because they love me as well. The spring is flooding my house. The spring is flooding my little heart. My parents are proud of me because I'm doing just fine. I'm doing just fine but I will always try harder. My house, you are beautiful and I love you and I will never ever leave you." Representing the ultimate authority, the kids unquestionably believe whatever their parents tell them, including that their mother can give birth to animals and that the cat is a dangerous animal that feeds on human flesh.
The parents in the film do not practice their authority primarily by enforcing fear and discipline but by presenting the kids with a brand new system of significance whose signifiers no longer match our signifieds (among many others, they use the word 'keyboard' to refer to the vagina, and 'zombie' to refer to a yellow flower). This might sound pathetic and deplorable if we see it from the outside - outside the system they live in. However, if we are in their shoes, we will see nothing abnormal and deal with the authority's commands as common sense. Ironically, by the end of the film, we gradually realize that we are the target of the allegory and that our presumably 'outside' world is another construct we are trapped inside. Whatever family values we cherish or religious dogmas we believe in or humanitarian beliefs we hold dear are all part of a bigger system made to confine us. Now we roar with acid laughter because we know we are the subject of the cruel joke.
Whether we are capable of breaking free, physically or figuratively, is left to you to decide in the typically-Lanthimos, mind-baffling ending.
I have probably said it to everyone I know, and I have to say it again: I love Lanthimos' mesmerizing frames which foster a compelling sense of confinement and stagnation. They are awkward, but beautiful awkward. Besides, the performers' enunciation and gestures are in absolute tandem with the overall cynical spirit of the film.
It's my second Yorgos Lanthimos film, and the second time to be assured Greeks are still capable of making epics.
I give the film 10 out of 10 (and a kiss of appreciation to Lanthimos!)
If you want to see a truly discerning satire on paternalism run amok, watch Woody Allen's Sleeper. Dogtooth labors too hard to shock you, and it's an annoying and small minded distraction. I was so bored throughout this tedium masquerading as mindfuck, I could have switched this off 100 tines before minute 30. But those who fancy themselves in the vanguard of the critical elite will perfunctory assign the film the highest rating and pat themselves on the back for their ingenuity. That's the only explanation I can devise when I try to figure out how films like this get 90% tomato ratings and win festival awards
All I can think of as a social psychologist is that it's groupthink at work.