Aneesh Chaganty

Movie #138 Dogtooth

In Uncategorized on February 17, 2011 at 1:43 AM

Movie #138 Dogtooth

(2009, Greece, d. Yorgos Lanthimos)

Nominated for an Academy Award and having been screened at Cannes, Dogtooth is pretty much on cloud 9 right now. Noted mostly for its originality in content and craft in style, I think I will be one of the few critics of the film to strongly dislike it. The fact that this film is marketed and commented for its hilarity and perverse humor truly saddens me. The events on the screen pushed the artistry of the “grotesque” to new levels. And by grotesque I mean it created a sense of unease, disgust, as well as humor all at once. However, unlike the works of Lars von Trier or even Michael Haneke, two filmmakers who use extreme and bizarre cases of violence and mutilation to at least make a point, Lanthimos’ work seems to exist just for existing. Perhaps it is commenting on the walls that families create and the sometimes ridiculous things they ask of their children which are never questioned by society. If that was the case, I believe there are plenty of other ways to make that point. In my opinion, it was an example of a work that was so bizarre and ambiguous in its intent it was mistaken for having any thematic value. The film deals with a group of three siblings who are purposively shut out of the world by their parents and taught strange things. Their definitions of words are all off, their impressions with the world are all off, their expectations of reality are all off. What we are witnessing is a very strange family portrait that just doesn’t fit. It’s disgusting use of violence, which some critics call humorous, I call abhorrent. It’s misplaced use of incest, which some critics call intuitive, I call immoral. And its unexplained motivations of any character, which some critics call ingenuous, I call cheap. This is not to say, however, that there is no redeeming factor of the film. Stylistically, I think the film is excellent. It suggests that the filmmakers were influenced by the Romanian New Wave of filmmaking – borrowing its heavy uses of dialogue, static cameras, and elongated conversations. What Lanthimos does here, to borrow a sentiment from Roger Ebert, is create a film where every frame feels like a disturbed family portrait – you can never really tell though what’s off about the picture.

  1. First off, I love the idea of the challenge. Good luck.

    As for Dogtooth, I agree that it is perverse and grotesque, but I also believe there is a method to Lanthimos’s madness. To me, Dogtooth was a parable about control and the folly of trying to shut out the influences of the world beyond the home. Hard as the father tried, he couldn’t hold the outside world at bay.

    All the best as you continue on the challenge.

  2. I really loved this movie, my x boyfriend thought it was completely boring and argued that nothing happened. I never laughed so much honestly and I think it was very well written and produced.

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