Countless times I have seen this title on those “Most Disturbing Films Ever” lists, so when I saw that Yorgos Lanthimos‘ Dogtooth was free to watch on the BFI Player (with an introduction from Mark Kermode) – I hit play almost immediately.
Dogtooth centres around a family, comprised of Father, Mother, Son, Elder Daughter, and Younger Daughter – whom will remain by those titles throughout the entire film. The children, despite being in their 20s, remain mentally child-like but have been darkly corrupted by their parents refusal to let them out of the house. Only when their ‘Dogtooth’ falls out (upper canine tooth – which we all know can’t fall out naturally) can they leave their prison, and even then there are rules to how they must leave.
Following a few weeks of the families goings on, you get to realise the true depravity and absurdity of their lives. The children are led to believe they have a brother on the other side of their garden wall, and win stickers for completing tasks like finding their Mother whilst blindfolded. They play violent games, with the opening scene being a discussion of a new game, in which you place your hand into boiling water and whoever keeps it there the longest wins. The behaviour of the children could be put down to bad acting, but this is not the case in the slightest, in fact quite the opposite. Lines are delivered in a stilted and scripted fashion, indicating the depth of the isolation this family faces.
The oddest, and most discussed part of the film is its depiction of sex – the Father employs a woman called Christina to have sex with his son on a regular basis, an act that is shown in its full methodical and awkward glory. The Mother tells her children that she is pregnant with twins, and depending on their behaviour she will decide if and when she has the babies. Shockingly, and likely the reason for this film’s appearance on the “Disturbing” lists, is the normalised acts of incest, and generally inappropriate things to do to family members, which at first glance would seem to be important plot points, but are forgotten by the next scene.
Claimed to be a black comedy, Dogtooth is quintessentially European. Full of darkness, depravity, and almost Hanake-ian. Definitely not one for the easily offended, and certainly one that requires repeat viewing to catch all the hidden treasures, this is a film about mind control in its most realist form.
You can watch Dogtooth now by heading over to the BFI website now.