Dogtooth (2010): Greek Yorgos Lanthimos’ Dark Satire of Dysfunctional Family (Cannes Fest Winner)

Put Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos, who has made Dogtooth (“Kynodontas”), a truly shocking, darkly humorous expose of a dysfunctional family, on your list of international directors to watch.

Winner of the top prize in the Un Certain Regard category of the 2009 Cannes Film Fest, Dogtooth was released by Kino International, after receiving enthusiastic critical acclaim. mouth.
An arthouse director, Lanthimos is unknown in the U.S., though “Dogtooth” is not his directorial debut; he previously had made “Kinetta,” in 2005, which had also played the festival circuit.
Lanthimos’s unsettling and disturbing film centers on three teenagers, who are confined to an isolated country estate, in which devious and deviant sexual politics runs supreme.
Having invented a brother whom they claim to have ostracized for his disobedience, the controlling parents terrorize their offspring into submission.
By standards of American films—even those made by Todd Solondz (“Happiness”), the children are bizarre, to say the least, and at first it’s hard to grasp what exactly is wrong with them.
Take their frightening stories, for example, which describe cats as violent man-eaters, or their language and vocabulary, according to which the word zombie denotes a yellow flower.  Indeed, the trio spend their days listening to endless homemade tapes that teach them a whole new vocabulary. Any word that comes from beyond their family abode is instantly assigned a new meaning. Hence “the sea” refers to a large armchair.
The father is the only family member who can leave the manicured lawns of their self-inflicted exile, earning their keep by managing a nearby factory. The twisted arrangement that define the mores in the house change, when the father kidnaps a pretty worker from his factory (Anna Kalaitzidou). Bringing her to the house, he dorces her to have sex with his son.
However, the presence of the outsider soon begins to leave its impact on each member of the clan. For example, the father’s intricate fantasy soon breaks apart.
“Dogtooth” is only Lanthimos’ second feature after a successful career directing TV commercials, music videos and stage productions.  Nontheless, it already reveals a distinctive and quirky sensibility and an impressive command over film’s technical crafts.
Co-writing the script with Efthymis Filippou, Lanthimos alludes to other surreal, scary tales about children, who seems to inhabit a world that’s totally different from the one familiar to us. Lanthimos has said that rehearsal on Dogtooth was underway long before the news broke on Austrian father Josef Fritzl and his crime of holding his daughter and children captive for 24 years in his basement.
Taking both thematic and stylistic risks—and breaking a number of signficant taboos– “Dogtoooth” represents a challenging art house fare that needs strong critical support in order to reach wider audiences.
About the Director
Yorgos Lanthimos was born in Athens in 1973 and studied film and television direction at Stavrakos Film School. Since 1995, he has directed numerous short films (including 2001’s Uranisco Disco), experimental theatre, music videos and TV commercials; his first feature film was 2005’s internationally-acclaimed Kinetta.

Cast:

Aggeliki Papoulia, Anna Kalaitzidou, Hristos Passalis, Christos Stergioglou, Mary Tsoni and Michele Valley

Credits:

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

Screenplay: Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou
Producer: Yorgos Tsourgiannis
Rating: Unrated; Greek-language, subtitles
Running time: 96 min

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A couple, their adult son and two adult daughters live in a fenced in compound. The children have no knowledge of the outside world; their parents say they will be ready to leave once they lose a dogtooth, and that one can only leave safely by car. The children entertain themselves with endurance games, such as keeping a finger in hot water. They believe they have a brother on the other side of the fence to whom they throw supplies or stones. The parents reward good behaviour with stickers and bad behaviour with violence.
The father pays a security guard at his factory, Christina, to come to the house and have sex with the son. Frustrated by the son’s refusal to give her cunnilingus, Christina trades her headband with the elder daughter in exchange for cunnilingus from her. The elder daughter convinces the younger daughter to lick her shoulder by bartering the headband. Later, the younger daughter volunteers to lick the elder again. The elder has nothing to offer in exchange, but the younger does not mind and experiments by licking other body parts.
The father visits a dog training facility and demands to have his dog returned. The trainer refuses because the dog has not finished its training, and asks: “Do we want an animal or a friend?”
When the children are terrified by a stray cat in the garden, the son kills it with a pair of pruning shears. Deciding to take advantage of the incident, the father shreds his clothes, covers himself in fake blood, and tells his children that their unseen brother was killed by a cat, the most dangerous creature. After he teaches them to bark on all fours to fend off cats, the family holds a memorial service for the brother.
Christina again barters for oral sex from the elder daughter. The daughter rejects her offer of hair gel and demands the Hollywood film tapes in her bag. She watches the films in secret and afterwards recreates scenes and quotes their dialogue. When the father discovers the tapes, he beats her with one of them, then goes to Christina’s flat and hits her with her VCR, cursing her future children to be corrupted by “bad influences”.
The parents decide that, with Christina no longer available, they will have the son choose one of his sisters as a new sexual partner. After fondling both sisters with his eyes closed, he chooses the elder. She is uncomfortable during their sex and afterwards recites threatening dialogue from the Hollywood film to her brother.
During a dance performance for the parents’ wedding anniversary, the younger daughter stops to rest, but the elder continues and dances the choreography from the film Flashdance, disturbing her parents. That night, she knocks out one of her dogteeth with a dumbbell and hides in the boot of her father’s car. The father discovers her tooth fragments and searches for her fruitlessly. He drives to work the next day; the car sits outside the factory, unattended.
Cast[edit]
Christos Stergioglou as father
Michelle Valley as mother
Angeliki Papoulia as older daughter
Mary Tsoni as younger daughter
Christos Passalis as son
Anna Kalaitzidou as Christina
Production[edit]
Dogtooth was the feature film début for Boo Productions, an Athens-based advertising company. The Greek Film Center supported the project with about €200,000 and much of the production was done with help from volunteers.[6] Another €50,000 was offered by the production studio, bringing the overall budget to €250,000.[2] Anna Kalaitzidou and Christos Passalis were stage actors who were cast after having worked with Lanthimos earlier. Mary Tsoni was not a professional actress, but a singer in a punk band.[7] Lanthimos had an open approach to both acting and visual style and felt it would look fake if he involved himself too much in the details. It wasn’t until the rehearsals started that he began to develop an idea of the style in which the film should be shot: one where he tried to combine a realistic environment with “really strict framing and a cool, surreal look to go with the narrative”.[8]
Release[edit]
The film premiered on 18 May at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival,[9] and went on to screen within such festivals as Toronto International Film Festival and Maryland Film Festival. It was released in Greece on 11 November the same year through Feelgood Entertainment.[10][11] Verve Pictures picked up the British distribution rights and launched it on 23 April 2010.[8] The American premiere was on 25 June 2010, managed by Kino International.[12]