Wednesday, 28 April 2010

dogtooth (d. giorgos lanthimos, w. lanthimos & efthymis filippou)

The Dogtooth - do you possess one? Are you likely to lose it at any point? If you do have one and circumstances demanded you had to remove it, how would you do it?

I don't know how the word Dogtooth sounds in Greek, but it sounds perfect in English. The writers of this film have as creative an attitude towards language as they do towards familial perversity. Levi Strauss wrote about the controlling power of language, and the way in which the deranged parents control and distort every day vocabulary offers an immediate insight into how power and information are intrinsically connected. In the parents' world, a zombie becomes a little yellow flower. A cat is a killer. The every day is laced with poison.

This is a beautifully conceived and observed film. No explanation is ever offered for the parents' need to manipulate their children. The conscientious father, played with a furrowed brow by Christos Stergioglou, and his wife have created a terrifying kind of Eden, which is observed with comical attention. Like all Edens, the seeds of its destruction are lurking, but having established the logic of this world, the film succeeds in convincing us that there's no reason why the children should not have bought into it.

Whilst it could have dwindled into becoming an exercise in post modern cleverness (ie How many ways can we reinvent our world?), the persistent threat of violence and fear lend a tension to proceedings. Furthermore, in her coming to terms with her relationship to her dogtooth, the older daughter acquires a terrible heroism, worthy of any Russell Crowe movie, and the film emerges as an eloquent testament to humanity's intractable quest for independence.

In the one interview I've seen online with Lanthimos, he talked about a whole community of Greek filmmakers, also mentioning that the film had, at the time of the interview, not succeeded in obtaining a release in his own country. Assuming the country survives into next week, it will be fascinating to see what else emerges in the wake of this remarkable piece of filmmaking.

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