Language: Greek with English subtitles.
Brief Synopsis: In a beautiful home in rural Greece, a family lives in complete seclusion. The father is the only one allowed to leave the property, which is fenced in on all sides by a massive wall. The mother and three children; older sister, boy, and younger sister, are basically held captive to his will. The entire world of the family is controlled by the father (and to some extents the mother). The children are in their late teens, and father decides that Boy needs sexual release so he brings in a co-worker, Christina, to have sex with Boy on a regular basis. Her outside influence begins to change the family dynamic and there is a downward spiral toward catastrophe.
My Take: I have never seen anything like Dogtooth. It is beautiful, funny, disturbing, and strange. Father is a convincing villain, Mother is his support but also completely submissive to him, and the children each have their own unique personalities. The mother records vocabulary tapes for words that the children might encounter explaining things outside their home. She changes the meanings so that the children do not entertain ideas of leaving. “Sea” becomes a large chair in their living room, “zombie” becomes a little yellow flower, etc.
There is so much to this film that it honestly warrants multiple viewings. It is definitely not for the squeamish, as there is enough sex and violence to make even the more hardened film-watcher cringe. The relationships between the characters are what fuel the film for more than three-fourths of it’s run-time. Christina’s outside influence, in particular on Elder Sister, is fascinating. She uses the girl’s naivety to her advantage, exploiting her in several ways. Boy doesn’t seem to understand sex, he simply does it, and Younger Sister is always looking for ways to show up her two siblings.
The presence of another “brother” that lives outside of the home presents a worry for the children, that they might be forced out of their oddly idyllic home for misbehaving or failing at one of their father’s many tests. The children are also given stickers for winning at these contests, and they often invent contests of their own. It gives an interesting view into what such a confined life might be like; a world without television, internet, phone use, or even newspapers.
The film does have a bit of a slow pace, and the only major drawback I can see is that it can be extremely confusing in places. The family do things that are never explained, and there are a number of questions left unanswered. How does Father coerce Christina into having sex with Boy in the first place? Was there ever actually an Older Brother? Does Bruce die?
This is certainly a film that will lead to a lot of discussion, and I for one, loved it.
Entertainment value: Medium. It’s a bit slow in places but it’s definitely fascinating.
Scare value: Low. There are definitely some uncomfortable or unnerving parts but nothing is genuinely scary.
Realistic?: That’s entirely up for discussion. Since so little detail is given in the film, it can be hard to determine. However, it was based on an actual case in Greece where a man kept his daughter isolated for almost thirty years, so it IS possible.
Violence/Gore: Medium-high. The violence is sparse, but when it happens it’s graphic. One disembowelment, one gash to an arm, lots of hitting, and the ending bit is rather awful for anyone who has phobias regarding teeth.
Sex: Extremely High. Nudity, graphic sex, graphic cunnilingus, and at least one display of what is probably genuine sex on camera abound.
This movie is for: Anyone with a slightly warped sense of humor, fans of psychology/sociology.
Films like it: I genuinely can’t think of anything like it, though there is apparently a Mexican film with a similar storyline, called Castle of Purity/El castillo de la pureza. The Virgin Suicides also expounds upon similar themes of parental control.
IMDB Entry on Dogtooth