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The film Dogtooth
February 9, 2011 4:55 AM   Subscribe

Dogtooth is an Oscar nominated Greek film directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. Reviews have noted its uncomfortable blend of family, insanity, sex, and power. In interviews, the director touches on his thoughts behind the film and its creation. (1, 2, 3)
posted by Brandon Blatcher (45 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Reviews have noted its uncomfortable blend of family, insanity, sex, and power.

Uncomfortable? Isn't that par for the course?
posted by fairmettle at 5:00 AM on February 9, 2011


I've seen this. Worst movie sex ever, in that it was far too realistic and awkward but at the same time totally absurd and painful to watch.
posted by tehloki at 5:15 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


It also won the prize Un certain regard (A certain glance) in Cannes. I didn't expect it to go that far, but if more Greek directors go for that kind of filmmaking than for family-friendly comedies, count me in. Incidentally, the last Greek film to be nominated was in 1977.
posted by ersatz at 5:21 AM on February 9, 2011


I remember when I saw this, it seemed like everyone was afraid to breathe.

This is the conversation walking out:

"That was...."

"...yeah."


"It certainly... uh..."

".....was...."

"...that was messed."

"YES."


I couldn't stop thinking about it and couldn't start talking about it.
posted by louche mustachio at 5:24 AM on February 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Reviews have noted its uncomfortable blend of family, insanity, sex, and power.

Uncomfortable? Isn't that par for the course?


Agreed. I am not sure that I want to see a movie that is a comfortable blend of family, insanity, sex, and power....
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:26 AM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


OK, I'm sold. I have got to see this movie.
posted by localroger at 5:38 AM on February 9, 2011


My friend told me about this the other night. No thanks.
posted by Liquidwolf at 5:45 AM on February 9, 2011


FYI, it's available for Netflix streaming, last I checked. I was blown away by this movie.

Utterly fearless acting and direction, and a unique concept carried out to the extreme without descending into camp or detached irony. I can see why people react so strongly to it... but I wouldn't call it exploitative in the least.
posted by BobbyVan at 5:52 AM on February 9, 2011


FYI, it's available for Netflix streaming, last I checked.

It still is, as of yesterday.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:56 AM on February 9, 2011


a movie that is a comfortable blend of family, insanity, sex, and power....

You mean My Big Fat Greek Wedding?
posted by Greg Nog at 6:02 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


instantwatcher.com says it will be available on Netflix until July 2012.
posted by ericthegardener at 6:06 AM on February 9, 2011


I saw this movie with jb at the Toronto International Film Festival two years ago.

Those of you saying that "uncomfortable" is normal and to be expected aren't really grasping that uncomfortable means a whole other thing in this context. There isn't a better word, so I won't try to replace it, but really this movie is incredibly difficult to watch. Though it's not as violent as many (maybe even most) mass marketed films, somehow the violence is worse along some dimension other than severity.

I'm not sorry I saw it, but I wouldn't sit down to watch it again, nor would I suggest anyone else see it. It's a good movie, but not at all an enjoyable movie.

Now I will read the reviews.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:06 AM on February 9, 2011 [3 favorites]



You mean My Big Fat Greek Wedding?


Dogtooth is like My Big Fat Greek Wedding crossed with Caligula.

It's a great movie, but maybe not such a great first date movie.
posted by Forktine at 6:06 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dogtooth is like My Big Fat Greek Wedding crossed with Caligula.

With a dash of Misery.

Those of you saying that "uncomfortable" is normal and to be expected aren't really grasping that uncomfortable means a whole other thing in this context.

Yeah, at times it feels like a deadpan mockery of inanity of the traditional family unit (father as head of household while wife and children obediently follow him). That makes its brief scenes of violence all the more brutal and disturbing.

I loved it, obviously, for the uncomfortable storyline and exaggerated mirroring of parent and child power dynamics (including what breaks them apart) and the marvelously ending, which ties things up exactly as you would think.

Worst movie sex ever, in that it was far too realistic and awkward but at the same time totally absurd and painful to watch.

Hee, that was the point.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:19 AM on February 9, 2011


Dogtooth is one of those movies you really want to show your friends, but at the same time, you don't want be known as the guy who really wanted everyone to see Dogtooth.
posted by geoff. at 6:22 AM on February 9, 2011 [9 favorites]


Dogtooth is one of those movies you really want to show your friends, but at the same time, you don't want be known as the guy who really wanted everyone to see Dogtooth.

A friend of ours from my wife's work took everybody to see Antichrist for her birthday. I can't imagine this movie could top that.
posted by kmz at 6:36 AM on February 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


In retrospect, I remember this film as very well-made: the direction and acting are excellent, though a certain plot choice drove me batty, and completely undermined the film for me.

I was didn't like the film very much on seeing it -- it was not that it was violent or overly sad - it was neither. Schindler's list was both more violent and more emotionally overwhelming for me, and yet I left the theatre feeling okay, as I'd had a catharsis. this movie left me feeling very unsatisfied -- even angry at the director, largely because of the plot choice at the end (a kind of choice I deeply disagree with). I declared upon leaving the theatre that I was clearly a philistine and didn't like art films and wasn't interested in seeing any more of the film festival.

and yet I also did end up caring a lot about the three main characters (which is why the "oh aren't we mysterious" plot choice pissed me off) and thinking about the film over the year+ since I've seen it.

The most uncomfortable thing about the sex is that, given the relationships, it is utterly realistic. Even awesome sex looks silly and would be uncomfortable to watch with other people sitting next to you. The sex in this film is not good sex, either emotionally or in terms of technique, though it is not violent-- it's so uncomfortable because the characters are so very uncomfortable.

So my review would be: this is a good film (that plot choice at the end keeps it from being excellent). But I'm still not sure if I liked it or not, and I would only recommend it to people who are interested in avant-guard film.
posted by jb at 6:47 AM on February 9, 2011


Dogtooth is one of those movies you really want to show your friends, but at the same time, you don't want be known as the guy who really wanted everyone to see Dogtooth.

After a while, I've just grown accustomed to having that role, and started to revel in it.

"Hey guys, let's check out this film... 'Taxidermia'!"

" 'Happiness of the Katakuris' - it's a comedy-musical, and it's hilarious!"

"You like animals, right? This farm documentary 'Zoo' is pretty interesting."

My worst first-date move? 'In My Skin'. An unsettling look at a woman's growing sense of self-negation and exploration of the distance between the self and the body, as she slowly goes into further and further extremes of self-mutilation. Fun for the family!
posted by FatherDagon at 6:51 AM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


largely because of the plot choice at the end...

To what are you referring?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:07 AM on February 9, 2011


Worst movie sex ever, in that it was far too realistic and awkward but at the same time totally absurd and painful to watch.

Dude, that was a rape scene, there's no other way to describe it.

Screw this movie.
posted by lumpenprole at 7:17 AM on February 9, 2011


Dogtooth is one of those movies you really want to show your friends, but at the same time, you don't want be known as the guy who really wanted everyone to see Dogtooth.

I've been doing the reverse psychology approach, telling my friends, "yeah, it got nominated for an Academy Award, and artistically it's very well done, but it's pretty controversial and I'm not sure it's your kind of movie."
posted by BobbyVan at 7:28 AM on February 9, 2011


For those who have seen it, is this uncomfortable to the level of Tideland, or far beyond? I realize, of course, that this is kinda apples and oranges here, but as much as I thought Tideland was a great movie, I don't think I would suggest it to others (or watch it again anytime soon). Either way, I have added it to my Netflix queue, even though I seriously doubt I'll get my wife to want to watch it with me.
posted by mysterpigg at 7:28 AM on February 9, 2011


I loved this movie. It was really just a strange trip in a can't-look-away-trainwreck sort of way. Definitely weird and had many uncomfortable moments, but I thought the obvious allegory on how parents these days are overprotecting their children was interesting.
posted by Ekim Neems at 7:50 AM on February 9, 2011


but I thought the obvious allegory on how parents these days are overprotecting their children was interesting.


From the second interview link:
Q:Has the reaction to “Dogtooth” varied from country to country?

A: It has been kind of uniform. There are people who are basically appalled, and then there are those who are very enthusiastic. It depends on their background, their political and sociological state. In America, for instance, they were saying that these things reminded them of the dangers of home schooling. In France, on the other hand, they were talking about an allegory for Greece’s dictatorship at the end of the 60s and in the 70s.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:57 AM on February 9, 2011


It wasn't as good as Antichrist.
posted by JJ86 at 8:51 AM on February 9, 2011


The film was interesting, but dispassionate and disjointed (although I'm sure the director had this in mind).

Every scene came off as in media res, with little continuity (other than the curiosity of what's on the other side of the fence).
posted by kuanes at 9:00 AM on February 9, 2011


kuanes: The fact that their cinematographer couldn't seem to find a device to move the camera with goes a long way toward this feeling.
posted by basicchannel at 9:30 AM on February 9, 2011


I wish I had waited for the Netflix version to see this, because watching it in a theater was somewhere near "watching porn with your mom" on the discomfort scale. One of the most remarkable things about Dogtooth was how restrained it felt -- usually these things feel like they're reaching a little too hard to shock and disgust, but I actually felt like Yorgos Lanthimos was holding back.

A friend of ours from my wife's work took everybody to see Antichrist for her birthday. I can't imagine this movie could top that.

True story: I saw Antichrist with my girlfriend on Valentine's Day. While the end credits were rolling, and we were still sitting in the theater, her mom called her and told her that Kimberly, the cat she had loved since childhood, died that morning.
posted by theodolite at 9:40 AM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Every scene came off as in media res, with little continuity (other than the curiosity of what's on the other side of the fence).

Yeah, it was great, like a family photo album!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:46 AM on February 9, 2011


It's a good movie, but not at all an enjoyable movie.

Matchbox and Soul Kicking are two other movies that could be described like that. There's a torrent of verbal violence and petit-bourgeois misery although I'm not sure how well the former element is retained in the subtitled version. Just throwing it out in case anyone is interested.
posted by ersatz at 9:54 AM on February 9, 2011


I've heard/read a lot about this, but not seen it, but given what I've heard - and the reaction here -- I find the DVD cover -- or at least the NY Times critics quote on the cover to be... amusing, I guess:

Hilarious

is not a word I'd heard used yet.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:00 AM on February 9, 2011


Actually, the dance scene, hinted at in the photo of the two girls on the DVD cover is hilarious before it breaks down into little bits of jagged insanity.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:23 AM on February 9, 2011


that is an extremely deceptive DVD cover.

Dogtooth is not funny. Sometimes you laugh, because there is some
comedy relief.

What they should have written was "original" and "thought-provoking" -- because it was both.

re the plot thing: I was trying not to be spoilerish, but suffice to say that it was the choice about where to end the film, which is definitely a plot as opposed to story element. I felt that choice undermined the other qualities of the film. .
posted by jb at 10:33 AM on February 9, 2011


somehow the violence is worse along some dimension other than severity.

Because the violence feels realistic. You can see that the children pick up on the father's brutality, and you can also see that they are bored and have emotions that they haven't the social wherewithal to deal with in a non-destructive way. It's logical and meaningful within the film, but also quiet and sudden in the way that real violence tends to be, and because of that one empathises with the victims, which is more shocking than watching a more extreme spectacle.
posted by louche mustachio at 11:00 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


re the plot thing: I was trying not to be spoilerish, but suffice to say that it was the choice about where to end the film, which is definitely a plot as opposed to story element. I felt that choice undermined the other qualities of the film.

I thought it was just about perfect, laced with tension and the question of what happens next along with the fallout of whatever happens next.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:06 AM on February 9, 2011


Don't know why this film is so highly regarded. Saw it a few months ago at a screening with a small crowd at an 'arthouse' theater. Nobody dug it.
posted by ReiToei at 3:14 PM on February 9, 2011


I want to be one of those people who watches this and calls it "funny" and "brave" but really I just feel like it is trying too hard to make people uncomfortable. Is it art? I have no idea, but its not a good time.
posted by jenlovesponies at 6:00 PM on February 9, 2011


I watched it tonight, largely due to this thread! It was okay. The thing I liked most was that the vocabulary was pretty basic; I've been learning Greek via Rosetta Stone lately, so it felt like one long creepy language lesson. Every time the kids would say "Yiasou", I would raise my drink and say "Yiasou!" back.

I didn't like the part with the cat, but it was kind of worth it when the younger girl mentions having seen a cat later in the film.
posted by Greg Nog at 6:06 PM on February 9, 2011


Between this movie and White Ribbon last year, I think to get nominated for Foreign Language Film is to be only technically well-made.

Didn't like the ending either. Is she dead? Is she alive? Is it all arty and she prefers confinement?

And what's the big theme of the picture? I'm watching it for a reason or else I'll be more entertained by rolling boogers. However a part of me thinks that this is meant to represent countries and nationalism. You will believe what we tell you about the world and when you get information that is true or different, we'll beat the shit out of you until you are not interested in the truth anymore.

Oh and by the way, you can be free, but only when an impossible thing happens: When your one of your dogteeth (either canine tooth) fall out.

Feels a bit obvious much like White (power corrupts, duh) Ribbon last year.
posted by CarlRossi at 6:47 PM on February 9, 2011


What is interesting to me is that this discussion is an exact copy of what happens when someone mentions Saló, Caligula, Battle in Heaven, Antichrist, Baise Moi, or any of several dozen movies that, like Dogtooth, deliberately use sex and/or sexual violence to provoke emotional reactions. Lots of people end up watching these movies because they are titillating and controversial, but not many people genuinely enjoy them.

As someone who very much enjoys them, and would happily watch any of them again tomorrow, I find the strength of the "did not like it" sentiment a bit puzzling, though I've come to accept that my movie tastes are out of the mainstream on this. My guess is that you could make a pretty accurate Venn diagram, where the circles of "likes Saló" and "likes Pixar movies" would have almost zero overlap.
posted by Forktine at 5:33 AM on February 10, 2011


Forktine, I think it's pretty simple. People who like the movies you list (and some other media *cough* I could think of) find it interesting and attractive to be surprised and challenged by powerful feelings that might not be quite under our control. They stretch our perception and present us with mysteries that do not have easy answers. In the best cases they make us wonder what it even means to be human.

Pixar movies aren't about stretching anything (except maybe the technical virtuosity of their manufacture, which gets old after a few minutes). They're about polishing well worn tropes until you can see your reflection, and making sure that there is absolutely nothing surprising or disturbing there. The people who are like these movies want to bask in the soothing comfort of their existing feelings without the worry that they might be surprised or learn something about themselves they'd rather not know.

And to the first kind of person, the second type of movie just seems like a trite and meaningless waste of time.
posted by localroger at 5:58 AM on February 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Didn't like the ending either. Is she dead? Is she alive? Is it all arty and she prefers confinement?

I like to think she got away and the bastard eventually had to pay for all his crimes.

But parental influence is strong, by design, on humans. Those early years we're just sponges, soaking up everything that we can. God alone knows what those kids absorbed.

Looking at that way, there's a real question: Does the girl even have a concept that trunks don't easily open from the inside? Sure, some car trunks make it easy these days, but would she even be aware of that? Probably not, so I think she died, back in the trunk of a car on a hot day with no one around to hear her screams or pounding. She may have got away, but she didn't have to knowledge to survive.

So yeah, the kids deserve a happy ending or at least a somewhat sane one, but yeah, well, life isn't always fair.

And what's the big theme of the picture? I'm watching it for a reason or else I'll be more entertained by rolling boogers. However a part of me thinks that this is meant to represent countries and nationalism. You will believe what we tell you about the world and when you get information that is true or different, we'll beat the shit out of you until you are not interested in the truth anymore.

In the interviews, the director mentions that it was about family, but after they started filming he realized it could apply to a many different situations.

Me, I saw the film as brutally comic exaggeration of the parent child relationship and family life, viewed through the cold eye of another species who's merely observing. The visuals and feel remind me of snapshots from a family photo album and a nature documentary, minus the cool soothing voice over of a narrator who calmly comments on the strange rituals, bewildering habits and awful brutality of the immature species.

As to the parent child stuff, parent does things out of the goodness of their heart, believing they're doing what's best for their child and even when that's completely true, there comes a point when the child has to rebel, push the parent away, in order to grow. That's almost a necessity. So it's interesting, to me, to wonder what it would be like to raise kids with almost zero outside influence, and what sort of parents would desire to do that. The language aspects were interesting. "What's a pussy?" "Oh, it's a big light" hah, of course the sheltered kids would believe that, hee.

The director was aware of the scifi overtones, but purposely avoided going in that direction for fear of it not being taken seriously or the genre imposing its own characteristics on the film. Understandable, but a shame.

For the record, I loved Dogtooth (not sure I could watch it again, at least all the way through) and other films like it and love Pixar films. They each tickle different parts of the brain and it's sa hame people think it has to be either/or with their preference being the "correct" one.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:10 AM on February 10, 2011


I don't think either taste is "correct" -- I just suspect that for most people they are mutually exclusive.

Back to Dogtooth, far and away my favorite aspect of the film was that it didn't make any attempt to present the parents' craziness in any way except matter of factly. Their crazy work to create the extreme isolation was just a given, rather than something that needed to be explored and explained.
posted by Forktine at 6:26 AM on February 10, 2011


Even a little spoiler space before discussing the ending would be cooler, thanks.

And thanks, ericthegardener, for helping me find this page.
posted by mediareport at 5:22 AM on February 12, 2011


The thread is about the film. If people don't want to know about it, don't read it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:32 AM on February 12, 2011


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