SXSW Film '10 — Dogtooth

I’m not quite sure how to process Dogtooth, the Greek film that won the Un Certain Regard award at the Cannes Film Festival last year.

I do know this: I loved it.

Director and co-writer Giorgos Lanthimos has created a movie that is at once both extremely hilarious and grossly disturbing. It’s provocative, obscene and a must see for anybody who loves challenging cinema.

Christos Stergioglou and Michelle Valley play the parents of a frighteningly naïve trio of grown children, played by Aggeliki Papoulia, Mary Tsoni and Hristos Passalis. The mother and father have apparently taken it upon themselves to raise their kids to be as screwed-up as humanely possible.

They teach them the incorrect definitions of words  — for example, the children believe a zombie is a little yellow flower that grows in the garden. They have lied to them about the reproductive process of human beings  — at one point, the father proudly announces to the children that their mother will soon give birth to three new additions to the family: a brother, a sister and a puppy. They egg on the children to compete in ludicrous little games such as who can recover from anesthetic the fastest. When their older brother disappears, the children are told he was ripped apart by the most ferocious animal known to man: a common housecat — an animal the children have just had a pretty traumatizing encounter with involving a hammer and kitten screams.

The children are cloistered from the rest of the world — told that they are not ready to handle the dangers that await outside the family’s compound until they loose either their left or right “dogtooth.”

This isolation from the rest of the world leaves the kids dense about pretty much everything. When they see an airplane in the sky, the kids call dibs on it if it was to crash. The parents, all too keen to fuel their children’s lunacy, help perpetuate their cluelessness by tossing toy airplanes into the garden — convincing the children that these toys are the same objects they see flying in the sky.

In order to satisfy their son’s urges, the father regularly brings in an outside woman to perform sex acts with his boy. When this woman begins to shatter the children’s perception of the world — introducing them to outside influences — it sets off a chain of events that ultimately threatens to tear the family apart.

Dogtooth looks and feels like a film from the ‘70s. Gritty and uncompromising, the film is a great throwback to the days where cinema used to incubate blatant weirdness.

The film’s actors gleefully embrace the eccentricity contained within Dogtooth. From their bizarre personality disorders to their off-kilter forced perception of the world, the trio of actors who play the family children are absolutely memorizing — daring audiences to take their eyes off the strangeness the family is waltzing with.

If you get the chance, please check out Dogtooth. It’s an absolute trip — at times bloody and at others bloody funny.

Chock full of full-frontal nudity, harsh violence and subversive satire, the film is not for the weak-minded. It is, though, for those who enjoy movies that tread the path rarely taken.

Category: Festival Favorites

Director: Giorgos Lanthimos

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The South by Southwest film festival will be held in Austin from March 12 through the 20th. For more information about attending the festival and the films being shown, visit www.sxsw.com/film.

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