Dogtooth (dir. Lanthimos, 2009)
I am not surprised with the amount of critical acclaim that this film has been receiving in the past year. It's an impeccably realized study of three children living perhaps the most sheltered life ever depicted on camera. It's a fictional film, yes, but one must wonder if there are parents out there who have enough money to sequester their children into their early twenties and teach them that the word for an armchair is 'sea' and that cats are the most dangerous animals walking the Earth. These 3 people are completely different from anyone that you've ever met and yet inherently the same. The film provides an interesting study on what exactly our environment provides us with, and what humanity provides us with, and it's not always a flattering outcome. These siblings yearn for sexuality, material possessions, freedom, and they're intensely competitive. Their games of 'endurance' are freakish and sobering. At one point both of the sisters play a game and inhale chloroform to see who will awaken first. It's these startling images that provide most scenes of the film.
The film, despite it's occasionally revolting imagery (the stabbing of a cat with gardening shears amongst them) still provides a lyrical experience. It's all a big series of 'what ifs'. What if we've never seen anyone dance before? How then would we dance? What if we thought that we were only ready to face the world if our canine teeth fell out? What if we were told Frank Sinatra's music is really our grandfather singing songs to us about his love for his family? They may be questions you never imagined asking, but the answers are mesmerizing to uncover. The film doesn't provide necessarily an alternate reality but a parallel upbringing based in our reality. It's the realization of what exactly in our world-views and actions is subjective, and what is innate.
Of course the technical aspects of the film are incredible. The lack of self-consciousness in the acting, the stunning cinematography, the sound mixing and editing (which in particular is very unnerving at times), and the editing of the film all string together in such a way as to make a film that is near-perfection. It's something that I enjoyed watching and spending time with, for sure, but do I ever want to revisit this place again? That's a question I don't think I can answer just yet!
Before I wrap-up though I should say how very shocked I am that this film has made the Oscar top 5 in the Best Foreign Language Film category this year! It's a film that is so different from what is usually in the Academy wheelhouse, and it was chosen. I assume that it must be the contingent that votes in that category who get to add long-listed films that the volunteers don't include initially, because I can't see too many people enjoying this film outside of cinephiles. Those who love The King's Speech surely don't love Dogtooth. But I'm glad it's made it in so at least those whom normally would never dream of watching something like this will have their minds ravaged for a bit. It surely won't win though, as the film most deserving of this award NEVER wins this award (i.e. last year alone A Prophet, The White Ribbon, and The Milk of Sorrow all lost to mediocre mystery thriller The Secret in Her Eyes...and that's how it shakes down almost every year). So let's cross our fingers but not hold our breaths!
The trailer for your viewing pleasure: