Monday, February 14, 2011

Dogtooth - Parenting gone terrifyingly wrong

This has to be the most bizarre work of cinema I have seen. Dogtooth, a movie from Greece by filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos takes us into the warped world of authoritarian parents and their two post teen daughters and an adult son. The home, which has a big yard and pool, is a refuge as well as prison for the  children. 

They have no contact with the outside world where, they are taught, roam ferocious cats waiting to kill them. The children are not given names, are been home schooled by audio tapes which teach them the wrong definition of words. They think that the word sea is an armchair, zombie is a small yellow flower and so on.They wander about the whole day in this prison. The father played effectively by Christos Stergioglou, is the only person who ventures out in his car to his job in the factory. The only means of communication with the outside world is a telephone which the mother (Michele Valley) keeps hidden and uses only to talk to her husband at work.

To satisfy his grown son's sexual needs, the father often brings his factory's security guard,Christina, blindfolded to their home. The sex is cold, almost clinical in nature.   After something goes wrong with this arrangement, the parents introduce incest to the childrens lives. The older sister takes Christina's place in her brother's bed. Theirs is a perverse world. The mother one day, announces that she is pregnant with two children and a dog. If the boy and the girls behave themselves they might be spared the human siblings. The dog, however, is non negotiable. 

The only escape for the children from their home, would be when their dogtooth falls out. Which is when they would be allowed to venture out across the gates in a car and be safe to see the world. There is brainwash here, a kind of totalitarian rule inside the house. The movie brought back '1984' to me which dealt with totalitarianism on a mass scale.

Have the parents seen circumstances in the outside  world that make them believe,  denial to the existence of such a world is best for their children? Are they being protective of their kids, beyond all rational reasonings? Or are they, to put it simply, insane? For the longest time I tried to find a hint of rationality to explain the horrifying nature of the actions. I could find none. 

The introduction of the outsider, Christina, stirs up the pot. She brings objects from the outside world into their prison. There is, at first, the exchange of a sparkly headband, for sexual favors from one of the sisters. Later, its a video tape. That sister gets curious, is finally not satisfied in the gated world. This triggers a chain of events which make for the drama in the movie. 

Watch it as a satire on the perils of overprotective parenting, on the effects of isolation and how the human psyche can be controlled and twisted. Parents are rightfully the first window to the world children see through and come to understand the society they inhabit. Abuse this power and watch as the train derails. As the movie played out, I couldn't help but think how this weird black comedy succeeds fascinatingly in keeping us glued to the screen. And gives us food for thought as to how much we should control our children and when to let go, for them to find their own wings.

Available On DVD and Netflix Instant Play. Nominated for an Oscar - Foreign Language Film 2011

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