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Film / Dogtooth

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Dogtooth is a 2009 Greek absurdist drama film directed by Yorgos Lanthimos and written by him and Greek writer Efthymis Filippou.

The plot concerns a husband and wife who have kept their three adult-age children isolated within the walls of their country estate for their entire lives. They tell them lies about the outside world and even the most basic concepts of life, keeping them in a perpetual state of helpless childhood. Their only outside visitor is Christina, a security guard at the father's workplace, who is brought in for sexual services with the son. As she interacts with the children, she reveals new concepts and realities that threaten their parents' hold over them.

The film premiered at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the "Un Certain Regard" award, and was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

It additionally served as the feature film debut for Boo Productions, an Athens-based advertising company which produced the film.

This film provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: The parents have brought up their children in a vacuum, restricting their contact with the outside world and molding their understanding of reality to control them. It's unclear why they do this, other than the implied desire to have children that are more like pets than people.
  • All Men Are Perverts: The idea that men are innately sexual is recognized and subverted with the son. The whole reason Christina is brought in is to satisfy the son's presumed sexual needs, but he eventually rejects her.
  • Ambiguous Ending: After the eldest daughter knocks out her canine, she escapes and hides in the trunk of the car. The family goes out and tries to find her, but to no avail. The following morning, the father drives to work; the last shot is of the trunk of the car.
  • Ambiguously Bi: Christina is brought in to have sex with the son, which she endures with mechanical stoicism. She also bribes the eldest daughter to perform cunnilingus for presents. It's unclear whether she's bisexual or is a lesbian who is simply willing to have sex with men for cash.
  • Animal Metaphor: When the father has the process of training a dog explained to him, it is exactly what he is doing to his children. To hammer the point home, he even starts training his family to get down on all fours and bark at cats.
  • Black Comedy: Of Lanthimos' signature style, with conversations balancing between deadpan expressions, alienation between the discussants and Word-Salad Humor with harsh undertones.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Various examples crop up throughout the film, although the extent to which the kids recognize the significance of incest is zigzagged.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The eldest daughter slashes her brother's arm with a knife after they squabble over a toy airplane.
  • Enclosed Space: The estate.
  • Fan Disservice: The sex scenes - the ones between Christina and the son are joyless and clinical, while the other ones are squicky because of the incest and the innocence of the children, who don't understand the significance of the action.
  • Improvised Weapon: VHS tapes, taped to a hand, as well as a whole VCR later on.
  • Manchild: Played for drama with the children. All are sexually mature, in their late teens to early twenties, yet they act like children since they haven't been exposed to enough of the world to grow up. They invent games to pass the long days at home and wrestle like little kids over toys. This trope is used to demonstrate the paralyzing effects of isolation from the real world.
  • Mood Whiplash: Zigzags between drama, horror, and comedy. One example is after the cat's death and the funeral for a departed brother, the father instruct the kids to get down on their knees and bark like dogs, which is pretty funny. It's startling to be laughing when you've just witnessed such a downer scene.
  • Nameless Narrative: Christina is the only named character. Everyone in the family and all other supporting characters are billed by a description. The closest we get is the eldest daughter asking to be called "Bruce." It's not even clear whether the children were ever given names.
  • Platonic Cave: The kids have no understanding of the outside world except the twisted version provided by their parents.
  • Reality Has No Soundtrack: There's no non-diegetic music in this movie.
  • Sabotutor: The parents fill their children's heads with lies about the outside world to control them. Even their perspective of language is twisted to prevent them from understanding concepts that would clash with the parents' teachings.
  • Serious Business: The family treats its childish customs and games with grave seriousness. The father awards stickers to the winners of challenges, which are treated as an important measure of self-worth and accomplishment.
  • Shout-Out: After watching tapes Christina gave her, the elder daughter constantly quotes and reenacts scenes from Rocky and Jaws.
  • Small, Secluded World: The family estate is insular due to family rules forbidding anyone but the father from leaving.
  • SteadiCam: Most of the shots are rock-solid, to the point where characters' heads may be cut off because they don't happen to be in the frame. Switches to Shaky Cam for a few scenes and for most of the ending.
  • White Shirt of Death: Played with. To convince the children of the dangers of cats, the father splatters red paint on his white shirt and tears it, implying that a cat mauled him.