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dogtooth movie review

Dogtooth: A Bizarre Movie about Manipulation and Confinement

Dogtooth, a 2009 Greek psychological thriller movie directed by Giorgos Lanthimos, is a harrowing tale of manipulative and overprotective parents who have confined their three adult children in their house, barring them from any outside influence.

This movie is inspired by a 1972 Mexican film, The Caste of Purity, by Arturo Ripstein, who claims to have based the story on a real-life story of an incident in Mexico when he was young.

The story is set somewhere in the Greek countryside, in a beautiful bungalow with a gorgeous swimming pool, a vast green-patched ground, and a fenced compound tall enough to bar anyone from escaping.

The middle-aged businessman and his submissive wife have confined three children (one male and two female) inside the house. The children have no clue about the world beyond their house. The characters have no names—only words (brother, sister, father, mother).

a still from the movie dogtooth

They are old now. And they do not have an understanding of the world outside. Nor do they know anything about birds, animals, other people, and even emotions—all controlled in this house.

They are told not to step outside their house for their safety, and they would be killed if they did. Their parents have told them they can only be ready to leave the house once they have lost a dogtooth—and then they can leave by car.

The children entertain themselves with bizarre, oft-self-inflicting pain games. As rewards for winning these games, they are given stickers to collect. They are home-schooled, where both father and mother have taught them the wrong meanings of words, maybe to shield them from outside influence or render their reality meaningless.

In one such scene, when the male child asks his mother what a zombie is, she responds, “It is a yellow flower”. To the son’s delight, when he finds a yellow-flowered plant in their compound, he shouts that he found a zombie. Similarly, “sea” refers to a leather armchair in the living room. A “pussy” refers to “a big light”. The mother says, “the pussy is switched off, and the house is plunged into darkness”.

a movie poster of dogtooth

Every scene in the movie makes you both feel anxious and laugh at the extent to which the parents tell lies—making up stories and ensuring that the children are confined under the pretext of shielding them from outside influence. Between these lives are sex scenes—making babies and giving birth to a dog (no kidding!).

Routine is an integral part of their lives. In between all this, the father brings a female security guard (blindfolded) to his house to copulate with his son. This woman trades small household glittering items for some illicit licking.

As the story proceeds, this security guard will cause havoc to the routine of this control-freak family. Manipulation is pervasive. For example, in a scene when a cat appears in their compound, the male child kills it with scissors.

vlcsnap 2015 03 13 15h30m16s132
a still from the movie, dogtooth.

But, to make up for the story of danger from cats, the father now tells them how a cat killed their brother (non-existent, till that point) because he couldn’t defend himself. Then, they are told that cats are dangerous and they kill humans. More importantly, one has to bark like a dog to scare the cat.

Along with the mother, the scene goes as the children are made to bend in the dog’s position and bark like the dog. This is another example of its absurdity.

This movie is nothing like what I have seen so far. I have watched movies and series where children are confined to the house compounds by their manipulative fathers and/or mothers. But this one takes this theme to a whole new level. It is this entire human condition reduced absurdity.

This movie is bizarre to its core, with unexpected lies hurled at children, deeply disturbing, albeit natural, sex scenes, and a deeply disturbing and provocative storyline. Dogtooth is uncomfortable to sit through and watch—not a movie with family.

Dogtooth tells an interesting story—of an alternate university, manipulation, misuse of words, and skewed reality. Despite seeming boring in the initial few minutes, the story picks up quickly as the characters develop. The acting in Dogtooth is brilliant. The movie is a good watch if you are looking for something bizarre to watch over the weekend.

Dogtooth is available to watch on Mubi.

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