Dogtooth depicts a family whose three children are completely unaware of the outside world. Told by their father that man-eating cats await them outside of the family walls, the three children remain childlike in mindset despite clearly physically venturing into adulthood. They have no understanding of sex, reality or the truth about their imprisonment. The father is the real monster whilst the mother seems to have chosen to go along with the lifestyle he dictates. The film is relentless from start to finish and has Haneke-like qualities. We are never permitted a break of any kind from the film’s bleak and harrowing tension and twisted nature. The performances are quite extraordinary and they are complimented by the crafty cinematography. The film highlights some very interesting ideas about just how much our upbringing can shape and direct us. Of course, Dogtooth is a story of extremes but even through its terrifying, monstrous tale there are some crucial questions asked. The film has some similarities with The White Ribbon of the same year. Both films study one generation’s horrifying actions whilst criticising the controlling and suffocating upbringing they have been put through. Both films are shocking and uncomfortable and there is little to rejoice in or enjoy. Yet, both films will hypnotise you into being unable to look away from the atrocities you are witnessing.
Dogtooth remains one of the most praised films to come out of Greece in recent years and it is not hard to see why. There is a simplistic use of the camera that sets up every shot excellently and allows the actors and their characters to drive the story forwards. Nothing about the film needed to be highly edited or enhanced because there is so much substance to work with. The less the camera moves, the more we see from the characters, especially the children. The family have a television but it is used only to watch family videos. When modern culture starts to leak into the household, a change is set in motion. One of the children in particular starts to rebel. The results are shocking. As the father goes to further extremes to maintain his children’s naivety we start to see the family break down from within. The children themselves commit horrible crimes but only through the lies that have been fed to them. Sex is treated as a natural necessity for the son and issues of incest soon makes their way into certain scenes. This is an ‘all or nothing’ film. Nothing is hidden from the audience and there is no relief. There is nothing nice and nothing enjoyable here but there is a heck of a lot to be admired and taken away.
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