Thursday, June 9, 2011
Yorgos Lanthimos, 2009
Starring: Christos Stergioglou, Michele Valley, Aggeliki Papoulia, Mary Tsoni, Hristos Passalis
Dogtooth is exactly the kind of film that I find nearly impossible to review. Its magic relies on a certain element of surprise or discovery that pretty much sails right out the window during a comprehensive explanation or assessment.
This widely praised, hard to classify Greek film concerns a small family -- a father, mother, and a teenage son and two daughters -- completely shut off from the outside world. Though the father works at a nearby factory, he and his wife have isolated their children from the rest of society, mainly with the walls of their "compound" and a through a series of psychological tricks. When the father begins bringing a young woman home to fulfill the sexual needs of his son the outside world begins to creep in and everything spirals out of control with disastrous results.
Similar to the more elegant works of Michael Haneke, Dogtooth manages to hit near perfection. Though I don't necessarily think it's the best film of the year (Temptation of St. Tony!), it is well written and directed, and includes a number of solid performances. The true beauty of the film is that despite the fact that you know it can't have a happy ending, it is subtle, unpredictable, and believable. The reactions to sexuality and violence are fresh and unsettling. A lot of the scenes feel like highly successful improv sessions rather than scripted and rehearsed moments, which I think is a great benefit to the flow of the film. Some of the symbolism is a bit clunky (the dog, for instance), but there are truly brilliant moments.
And maybe most importantly, Dogtooth doesn't resolve any of the questions it presents us with. Why does the father do this? Why does the mother put up with it? What happens at the end? I love intelligent films that seek to tell a story and don't have to scramble to answer questions or present a completely solid narrative structure.
Go see it. I realize this is a pitifully short review, but I desperately don't want to give anything away. The only other thing I can say is that, once again, European cinema is putting the U.S. to shame. There's a single disc Kino release that you should just buy.