Film Reviews

Dogtooth: Teething on Black Comedy

A 2009 Cannes winner, Dogtooth is hyperrealist sci-fi detailing an (anti)social experiment gone awry. The matriarch and patriarch of an upper-class Greek family have taught their three nameless, college-age offspring an alternate language ("A sea is a leather armchair, like the one we have in the living room. A pussy is a big light") to protect a larger deception: that the world outside the family's high-walled home is so dangerous that the "kids" won't be mature enough to explore it until one of their canine teeth falls out. The clueless guinea pigs wile away their days playing mostly innocent if bizarre games of endurance and submission, often monitored by their father, who offers sparkly stickers as prizes for jobs well done—and enforces the boundaries of the closed state with violence. But this dictator's efforts are no match for the trifecta of threats to his fascist regime: free-market trading, sex and American popular culture. Director Giorgos Lanthimos lays out the rules largely through action rather than exposition, which allows Dogtooth to play as a richly satisfying, blackly comic mystery in spite of its delayed, horror-sourced housebreak plot. This pastel-colored portrait of disaster capitalism was made long before the Greek economic crisis, and that's something of a relief: Straight parable could never feel as urgent and unexpectedly moving as the eldest daughter's desperate drive to escape into Hollywood movies—not just by watching them, but by pretending to live them.

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Karina Longworth

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