Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Dogtooth

Kynodontas; psychological drama, Greece, 2009; D: Yorgos Lanthimos, S: Angeliki Papoulia, Christos Stergioglou, Mary Tsoni, Christos Passalis, Michelle Valley

Two parents have raised their three teenage kids — two daughters and one son — in complete isolation from the outside world. They can come out of the house, but have never stepped foot outside their garden. Father purposely teaches them wrong concepts and words, and forbids them from watching movies. Father goes to work in his car every day, and sometimes brings a woman to have sex with the son. When the woman shows the older sister movies on VHS, the father slaps her. However, the older sister gets more and more rebellious. The parents claim that they can leave once their dogtooth falls off. The older sister breaks her two teeth away and hides in the father's car, thereby exiting the outside world when he goes to work.

It is only fitting that Plato's allegory of the cave was given an adaptation in modern Greek cinema with "Dogtooth" in which writer and director Yorgos Lanthimos gives a sly synecdoche of totalitarian regimes where the one-party system is the only one allowed and its subjects are kept in a narrowed state of mind. The story is deliberately left without a context (do the parents keep their three teenage kids in isolation from the world because they were born out of incest? Or do they simply want to keep them under a strict, ultra-conservative education?), but that just gives it spark and stimulates the viewers' attention, whereas Lanthimos has a very dry sense for humor in some situations stemming from the bizarre-absurd concept: one of the most hilarious moments is when the father plays Sinatra's song "Fly Me to the Moon" and in all seriousness says to the kids that its the recording of their grandpa singing, even randomly "translating" the English lyrics with such gibberish words as "I love my home and I am proud to live here". Whether it is an analogy of religious or political fundamentalism (the fact that the older sister secretly watches forbidden Hollywood films on VHS in itself thematically reminds of the documentary "Chuck Norris vs. Communism"), "Dogtooth" gives an engaging metaphor of a fight against authoritarianism and the cry for freedom—the most impressive moment is thus when the older sister (brilliant Angeliki Papoulia) suddenly starts dancing "suspiciously" during the anniversary of their parents' marriage, until it becomes obvious she defiantly dances in tune to "Flashdance", in a genius moment of inspiration. Unfortunately, the story is destroyed by an ending which is simply no good: it feels anticlimactic, unsatisfying and disappointing, as if someone "stole" the last 10-20 minutes of the conclusion. "The Truman Show" is thus still a better version of this concept.

Grade;++

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