Yorgos Lanthimos outstanding second feature is quietly making waves on it’s far too limited release. Pinned at a jaunty angle between the most savage Von Trier and the coldest Haneke, Dogtooth frequently out does both of their finest efforts and in doing so also manages to infuse a sense of humor so original it almost makes you forget just how strange 90 minutes in a cinema can really be.
Though your friends may look at you (and me) oddly for saying so, Dogtooth is, in essence, a comedy. Of course, its a dark one. Black, but a comedy nonetheless. At least I think it is…
A mother and father on the outskirts of a Greek industrial town have inexplicably held their three children captive in their house since birth. The pair have subdued the now fully grown adult’s every thought of escape with both tiny and elaborate lies. Outside words which the “children” have accidentally heard are immediately attached to other items. The Sofa becomes ‘The Sea” and “Telephone” a salt shaker. The children test each other constantly, tasks such as holding their breath in the pool for the longest time while their father times them earns them stickers as a prize; competition structures their life in a perpetual state of detention, which is often as suffocating and trying for us as it is for them.
The only person allowed in to their walled house is a female security guard hired by the father to take care of his sons sexual desires and it’s her outside influence that sets Dogtooth into a bit of a nightmare.
Lanthimos cleverly presents his film as an almost statically shot, detached play with awkwardly composed shots only adding to the discomfort. The performances are bitterly brilliant, timed to perfection and the film’s bizarrely paced story obviously but satisfyingly drifts off into the only place it can go: The thought of escape.
Sounds funny right?
Perhaps Dogtooth’s strongest aspect is that it’s so deceptively simple in set up that after then film it’s too easy to forget just how many fantastically twisted and original scenes it contains… but they all come creeping back. Each idea is shown so slowly and effectively, luring you into a false sense of almost calm before the tone shifts on you in a split second. It’s beautifully tense, consistently both laugh out loud funny, deeply disturbing and horribly violent in equal measure.
Though I can’t completely wholeheartedly “recommended” a film like this for reasons inexplicable, it is quite easy to sit here at my computer and type these words without consequence: See it now.
Hell, take your family!
To put it in some kind of context, it’s probably the only film I’ve seen where killing a cat is shamefully funny and Jaws and Rocky are actually pivotal reference points. It also comes complete with the best onscreen dance routine in recent memory.
Better than that Napoleon Dynamite guy anyway.
Essential. (But you have been warned. Kinda.)