Sunday, 19 September 2010
Like Emma Donoghue’s incredible novel Room, Greek black-comedy Dogtooth (2009) explores the theme of sensory deprivation within a dysfunctional family. The family consists of three infantilised siblings, two girls, one boy and their parents. The father is the only member of the family able to leave the house and the mother communicates externally with a hidden telephone in her bedside cabinet, but only with her husband. A female security guard is welcomed into the equation to quash the sexual urges of the son and whilst there bargains with one of the daughters to satisfy her own sexual desires with gifts of hair-bands and video tapes that threaten their protection from the evils of the outside world.
Writers, Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou have created an intelligent and complex screenplay where they subtly reveal the distance between the sibling’s existence and reality through the simple switching of words. Whilst at the dining table a daughter asks her mother to ‘pass the phone’ and her mother hands over the salt. ‘What’s a pussy?’ asks another “A big light” is the response. The setting, as in Haneke’s not dissimilar Funny Games (1997) is crisp in its colour and cleanliness which perhaps allows you to accept the fate of these characters more willingly than you would if they were being brought up in an underground pit. There are occasional scenes of real sex that are not completely necessary as the suggestion would be just as affective. Many critics use the word ‘erotic’, when discussing the film and I can only suggest that these critics be investigated by the authorities.
Thematically the film is also evocative of The Cement Garden (1993) but what Dogtooth has that its contemporaries don’t is genuine wit. There are surprising moments of sheer hilarity, particularly a frenzied dance scene and you will laugh so much that it washes over the effect of the brutal violence you are also subjected to. Dogtooth is shocking, explicit, violent, comical and unforgettably brilliant. Lanthimos is a writer/director to watch, an intelligent and provocative film-maker that tickles the imagination in a way that not no Hollywood director would ever dare.