Gimme Shelter – Review: Dogtooth

Dogtooth was already on Cinematical’s 2010 list of “The 5 Best Films You (Probably) Missed This Year“. It was number one, in fact. Were I to make a similar list, it would most certainly be there as well. But, my list might be a little bit different, something more along the lines of: Most Amazingly Fucked Up Films of 2010, which the Majority of Americans Will (Probably) Never See, Even Though They Should… Of course, that’s nowhere near as catchy as David Ehrlich’s list, which is (by the way) where I discovered Dogtooth in the first place. So, thanks David.

Now comes the question, how much do I tell you about this movie? How much is too much?

For me, one of the best parts of watching the film was having no real idea how far the filmmaker’s were willing to go. There’s something appealing about not knowing. I went in knowing very little about the film, and that created a wonderful sense of tension. I will try not to give too much away.

Dogtooth is a film about sheltered children. Did you go to school with some of those “eccentric” kids whose parents kept them from watching TV or eating sugar or listening to secular music and so on? I went to school with a girl who wasn’t allowed to have sugar, and when she finally caved at our class Valentine’s Day party it wasn’t pretty, not so much a sugar-high as an angel-dust freak out. With Dogtooth it’s the same idea, but on a ubiquitous scale. The “children” in the film are sheltered from everything, and much like my classmate, it makes for some freaky behavior when unfamiliar elements are thrown into the mix.

A Greek family cut themselves off from the rest of the world. We never learn their names. The father and mother confine their three children to the grounds around their home. The teenage (possibly even twentysomething) children are “home-schooled,” primarily by audio tapes their parents have made, which teach things like, “A sea is a leather armchair with wooden arms like the one we have in our living room. For example: Don’t stand on your feet, sit on the sea and have a quiet chat with me.”

The most important lesson the parents have taught their children is that the outside world is an extremely dangerous place, and the children won’t be ready to venture out until their dogtooth falls out. The father is the only one who is permitted to leave the family compound, to go to work. And Christina, a woman he works with, is the only outsider allowed into their world… to satisfy the sexual needs of his son.

And I think that’s about all I can safely tell you without ruining anything. It’s an extremely intriguing social satire of overprotective parents. Efthymis Filippou (writer) and Giorgos Lanthimos (writer/director) have crafted a wonderfully surreal film that is kith and kin to Luis Bunuel’s The Exterminating Angel and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. A bit more shocking and absurd, Dogtooth is still a biting satire, shifting from bizarrely humorous to alarmingly disturbing at the drop of a hat. Through all it’s quirks and kink and idiosyncrasies, it’s a fairly straight forward social commentary that should get you thinking… even if at first all you can think is, “What the fuck?” Food for thought.

Grade: A

Dogtooth had an extremely limited release, so it’s no surprise that many missed it. But you’re in luck, it’s is out on Blu-ray/DVD today and available for streaming on Netflix Instant.


4 responses to “Gimme Shelter – Review: Dogtooth

  1. So the Oscar nod was deserved if not completely crazy.

    I have it waiting for me at home.

  2. Pingback: 10 Quick Thoughts on Oscar Nods | Shooting the Script

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