In a nutshell: Beautiful, surreal and worryingly possible.

Popcorn rating: 4.5/5

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimo, Greek film Dogtooth is slow, unsettling and (especially when you consider the Ftrizl case) all too real. Yet it is utterly, disarmingly compelling. It’s easy to see why it won the Prix Un Certain Regard at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, has been nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the forthcoming Oscars, and garnered a top rating of 93% on movie review site, Rotten Tomatoes.

*spoiler alert*

Imagine the scene. You live with your siblings and your parents in an isolated compound. You never set foot outside the high fence which surrounds the house. You believe everything your parents tell you. That a zombie is a small yellow flower, a phone is a salt shaker, a pussy is a big light, the sea is a leather chair, that overhead planes are toys, which sometimes fall from the sky. You believe killer cats stalk the world outside the fence and that they already attacked your father and killed your brother, the one who lived on the other side of the fence. You believe you can’t ever leave your home until you have lost a dogtooth. You believe this because you don’t know any different. Your family and this secluded house with its high trees and swimming pool and sterile, white walls is all you have ever known. This is Dogtooth.

Upsetting the balance in this tightly wound autocracy comes Christina, a security guard regularly brought in by dad to relieve the son of his sexual frustrations.

Christina’s arrival heralds the simmering tensions of the young adults moving to boiling point. The eldest daughter slashes her brother with a knife for playing with her toy plane. The youngest hits him with a hammer, explaining: “I didn’t do it. A cat did it, a cat with a hammer.” Christina offers the eldest daughter presents (a headband, video tapes of Hollywood movies) in return for sexual favours. There is a visiting cuckoo in the nest, the result of which must be suppressed.

Other than a passing reference to badly behaved children, no full explanation is ever given as to why the family live their life as they do. The ending is purposefully ambiguous. There is no history given. All we are offered, all we get, is a glimpse into a dystopian microcosm – stilted dialogue, lighting that is is bright, gauzy, harsh, like an overexposed photograph; images that are evocative, dreamlike, slightly off kilter. The overall feel is of a sterile, oddly perturbing, utterly compelling home movie.

Dogtooth won’t be everyone’s cup of tea – it is too unsettling for that – but it is a muted and original nightmare that will lead to questions, for which there is no answer. Highly recommended.

Reviewer: Curlyshirley

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