Sunday, 18 July 2010


The finale was an oddity and no mistaking. Thanks to a recommendation from the Bibby sisters I was sitting comfortably for Dogtooth, a Greek film starring a family with a very confused heart and way of doing things.

The story shows what happens when parents decide to create their own set of rules to keep their three children at home, imprisoned. They've bought them up to understand they can only leave the grounds of the house when their dogtooth has fallen out. As the tooth will never fall out the children, whose age is unclear but they appear to be in their early twenties, cannot leave. Indeed thanks to the world that's been created around them they fear the outside, taking appropriate opportunities to bark at it. All rules, from definitions of words to interacting with people, come from the immediate family circle. This kind of social experiment is complicated by mum and dads intention to stay in control by changing meanings and that's an approach which gets increasingly out of hand.

The escalation of the lies results in increasingly violent confrontations, although with a surreal edge as normal reactions definitely aren't in play here. The intrusion of a cat into the garden has an especially bloody conclusion which illustrates the extremeness of the abnormal behaviour and allows for further twists of the crazy rules. This control is further explored in further explicit fashion when the father brings in a young woman to satisfy his sons sexual urges. This ritual is pretty damn uncomfortable for the participants and audience but including an outsider further also shifts the plot on by creating further conflict, complications and misunderstandings.

As the situation unfolds there is certainly a distinct lack of explanation of what the blazes is going on. The non traditional nature of the families communication means that the viewer is rarely aware what exactly is being talked about. Indeed the conversations take odd twists which are darkly comic. Such as the necessity to explain that a pussy is a big light. And the eldest being exposed to films which lead her to decide she wants to be called Bruce. It's all stilted and confusing but oddly engaging. The apex of this bizarre world is a dancing scene which manages to be hilarious and horrible, the desperation to impress collides with a desire to express feelings utilising a completely random style. Compelling stuff.

Speculation on social experimentation is generally pretty interesting. How indeed would a child react under such conditions. The motivation of the parents is never clear, there's a suggestion of misguided protection but the mystery sustains a level of interest although it's a constant struggle knowing who to trust or root for. The children are bloody confusing, it's difficult to connect with people operating in such a different world and the outbursts they partake in are don't make them likeable. But the actors present experimentation of human nature really rather well, so there's sympathy to feel for their predicament and an abrupt ending which allows for a little personal speculation.

It's a slow burning look at what might happen when parents try shape their children on an extreme level. Punctuated with challenging moments of sex and violence as well as black comedy Dogtooth made for a decent end to this particular holiday journey.

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  1. That sounds like a disturbingly fun little film. Gotta hunt that one down... when my Dogtooth falls out, of course... can't leave the compound till then!

  2. ha ha! i am tempted - Jo' can often find some strange little treats


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