This is one weird film.

Dogtooth basically chronicles several weeks/days/months (it’s impossible to tell) in the life of a really screwed up family. The parents never let their three grown children outside the property, constantly get them to compete with one another and teach them the incorrect meaning of words. When her son asks them what a zombie is, Mother explains that it’s a type of flower.Dogtooth (Kynodontas) When a cat enters their property, Father explains that these are one of the most lethal predators known to man, and would tear you to pieces if given half a chance. Oh, and to top it all off, Father regularly pays a co-worker of his to come to the house to have sex with his son.

It’s child abuse, basically. But it’s so bizarre that the audience doesn’t quite know how to react. At first it’s funny. Hilarious at times, like in the opening scene when the three siblings discuss the logistics of a competition in which they hold their hands under running hot water as long as they can. It’s eerie in other moments, as when one daughter uses a medical textbook to examine her sister, and flat out horrifying when the kids act under their own misguided initiative to fix the problems with which they are faced.

Dogtooth is quite impossible to pin down. It doesn’t seem to be purely farcical and if the film has an agenda then it’s hidden deep within the borderline psychotic behaviour on display. It doesn’t feel wrong for good reason, as with much of Todd Solondz’s work, yet isn’t comical enough to be classed as an absurd comedy.

This could be seen as a good thing, however you’d have to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy it. I can’t imagine why I would ever recommend this to anyone, but at the same time it’s weirdly involving. The performances are stunning, particularly from the younger cast members. The innocent, confused puppy-dog expression of Younger Daughter (of course, no one has a name) is so incredibly perfect that you simply couldn’t imagine this actress as a normal, functioning member of society. The parents are good, too, though the script never lets on to their objectives (if they have any) – they simply do what they do.

If you’re up a strange, powerful film, then Dogtooth fits the bill. Its off kilter-scenarios and strangely placid pacing make for a compelling if emotionally sterile feature.

Rating: 3 stars
Review by Stuart Wilson, 16th August 2009
Hoopla Factor: 3 stars

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