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Manuel de Layet [Film Festival 09.15.09] Greece movie review trailer drama

Year: 2009
Directors: Giorgos Lanthimos
Writers: Giorgos Lanthimos & Efthymis Filippou
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: The Crystal Ferret
Rating: 9 out of 10

“Today the new words are: sea, highway, hiking, rifle. “Sea” is a leather chair with wooden armrest, like in the living room. Example: Don’t stand; sit down in the sea so we can talk.”Highway” is a very violent wind. “Hiking” is a resilient material used to make floorboards. Rifle is a beautiful white bird.”

Welcome to a world where planes fall out of the sky, where the telephone is used as a condiment and cats are alien creatures, vicious and terrible. Giorgos Lanthimos’ third movie, DOGTOOTH, is something you definitely don’t see every day; it is a truly Unidentified Flickering Object that will leave you agape with wonder.

The first paragraph is not from Sesame Street but from the opening sequence. There are pretty incredible dialogues during the first scenes which afterwards, add to the global “other” feel of this little world. There is the Family, the House, and the Outside. Only Father can go outside thanks to the protective Car, for the rest of the household there is only fear of a brutal and fiendish world on the other side of the fence. Absurd and unreachable conditions are drawn in the household mind to restrict access to the dangerous world outside.

“WHY?!” is the main operative word when watching Dogtooth, until our mind closes shop and goes with the flow, each new strangeness adding to the overall awe. It’s like looking at some curious species of ants.

The Children have no identity aside from their birth order. There’s the Eldest, the Youngest, and the Boy. Their daily routine is a total denial of adulthood; this ritualized day to day life is an extension of child-play. Therefore there is minimal development of culture. Everything in the House is everything there is to know. Fear and lies are used to contain the Children minds, and it works up to a point.

Semantic mastery of objects and concepts outside the sphere of the House is maintained in a pretty effective attempt to quench and quell the Children curiosity about the world. Anything out of the known lexical fields is therefore a Threat. Never ever leave the house, everything is biased toward that particular effect, even song lyrics in foreign languages are translated into “home sweet home” allegories. There’s no TV, no radio, no magazines, the only videos around are family tapes or porn.

Unfortunately introduction of exterior elements, a pair of video tapes, by the house-whore (don’t ask) will have unfathomable consequences on her and will smash and tear at the semiotic dam holding the Eldest’s curiosity. Dying to see what’s outside without exposing herself to the fabled dangers of the Exterior world will result in creative rule binding. The consequences won't be revealed.

Therefore, I demand a sequel or I will personally dissect the writer’s brain to get the answers I crave.

This is one of the most incredible pieces of cinema you’ll see this year. There is nothing out of the ordinary, no special effects, no tentacles, no monsters, yet the House is a place outside the boundaries of our knowledge, demonstrating that you can create a truly alien world just by shifting some words and usual social interactions.

It’s also a movie about walls. Walls of our consciousness, framing the way we see the world. Walls of a house, secluding it from the rest of the world. Walls hiding, nesting between them some esoteric meaning the outside cannot comprehend. And the famed Fourth Wall, allowing us to bypass the Schrödinger postulate and observe without affecting the objects, without having any interaction on the monitored subjects. Dogtooth is the prized ant farm of a twisted Demiurge, exposed for all us mortals to see.

There is a complete and total suspension of disbelief. Whatever happens in the House feels both right and justified within the boundaries of the subject. Even the oldest taboo is broken without us raising an eyebrow, because it’s the only intelligent and sensible option at the time.

The actors are wonderful: Eldest, Youngest and Boy. We will never know their age and can only speculate. They are adults, yet children still. Seeing grownups act with proper childish seriousness in the most futile actions, played with such frightening conviction instantly works and chill. The awkwardness of a toddler, bursts of ire or contempt out of nowhere, petty rivalries to please the Parents are played with such ease they help carry the whole postulate until the end. There is also a colloidal impact of their performance on the part played by the Parents, which also uplifts it. Fabled gods of all powerful knowledge when the Children are around, they shrivel down to human status when alone, dealing not without difficulties with the consequences of their own experiments. The cracks becoming more and more evident as the cognitive capacities of their offspring become deceptively subtler with age however they might scheme to satisfy or divert them.

Even if Father has to leave the walls to work and sustain the Family, there is no relation between the two worlds he is jointin. Veils of lies conceal the House to the exterior, and the exterior is taboo to the House. You can boil it down for hours long to get some semantic development on the Patriarchal delusion of power over his estate.

Can we extend the whole into a cynic and quite acerbic criticism of patriarchal social-structures? On the way each man sees himself as the almighty lord of his own private kingdom and how it might turn out if it really happened? Or is it just a masterfully crafted tale without ulterior motives? It’s up to you to decide. Either way it’s an achievement of nearly Biblical proportions.

This is one of the greatest depictions of the family and home concepts ever laid on film and my personal favorite of the whole fest. The verdict is 9 out of 10.

I shall on a side note thank again l’Etrange festival staff who managed to get me to see it when it was originally screened during Goemon.

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