Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Yorgos Lanthimos|
|Produced by||Iraklis Mavroidis
Athina Rachel Tsangari
|Written by||Yorgos Lanthimos
|Editing by||Yorgos Mavropsaridis|
|Distributed by||Feelgood Entertainment|
|Running time||97 minutes|
Dogtooth (Greek: Κυνόδοντας, translit. Kynodontas) is a 2009 Greek drama film directed by Yorgos Lanthimos about a husband and wife who keep their children ignorant of the world outside their property well into adulthood. The Greek drama stars Christos Stergioglou, Michelle Valley, Aggeliki Papoulia, Mary Tsoni, and Christos Passalis. Dogtooth is Lanthimos' second feature film as solo director.
A married couple and their three young adult children, a son and two daughters, live in a large compound with a garden and swimming pool. A tall fence surrounds the property and the children have never been on the other side of it, for their parents have kept them unaware of the outside world, even of the existence of the telephone. They are taught different meanings for everyday words. For example, they are told that a "zombie" is "a small yellow flower," and that "sea" is a chair. The parents promise that each child will be ready to venture outside the compound once she or he has lost a dogtooth. Although the children are told they have a brother just on the other side of the barrier, he never appears.
The only non-family member to come into the house is Christina, a young woman who works as a security guard at the father's factory. She is driven by the father to the compound – travelling both ways blindfolded – where she performs sexual favors for the son. Dissatisfied with his preference for intercourse, Christina seeks oral sex from the elder daughter in exchange for a headband. The elder daughter obliges but does not recognize the significance of performing cunnilingus. Later, she gives the headband to her younger sister, in exchange for being licked on the shoulder, which is marked by an unexplained scar.
The parents have tricked the children into believing that overhead planes are merely toys. They allow the children to search for toy planes that they have planted on the grounds, and the child that finds the toy owns it. One day the older daughter finds her brother playing with her plane; she retaliates by cutting his arm with a kitchen knife.
The father visits a dog training facility and demands to have his dog returned. The trainer refuses because the dog has only reached the second stage of a five-stage training. He lectures the father on the merits of retaining a dog in training until its training is complete, and warns against the untimely cessation of training. He poses the question: "Do we want an animal or a friend?" The father is impatient to receive the dog, as he expresses to his wife. When the arrival of the dog is considered imminent, the parents tell the children that the mother will soon give birth to "two children and a dog", but promise that the birth of the children can be forgone if the son and daughters show improvement in their behavior.
The siblings are terrified by the appearance of a stray cat in the garden. Considering it a threat, the son ambushes and kills it with a pair of pruning shears. The parents decide to take advantage of the incident. The father shreds his clothes, covers himself in fake blood, and comes home, where he tells his children that their unseen brother was mauled to death by a cat, the most fearsome creature. The children are taught to get down on all fours and bark maniacally as a precaution against cats. A memorial service is held for the brother, in which the family members lob flowers over the fence, in mourning.
Christina is again brought to the compound to perform her services and she once more requests oral sex from the elder daughter. However, the daughter rejects Christina's offer of hair gel as a reward, choosing instead the two films in Christina's bag (Rocky IV and Jaws). Christina refuses to hand over the films, but eventually agrees under threat of blackmail. The elder daughter watches the films at night, and they have a significant influence on her. She recreates scenes from the films and quotes them in her free moments. The father finds the videotapes, fashions one into a weapon with packing tape, and uses it to beat his daughter's head. Then he goes to Christina's flat, removes her VCR player from the wall and knocks her off her chair with it. As he leaves, he curses her future children to be corrupted by "bad influences."
In the middle of the night, the son's knee is injured with a hammer and he accuses his younger sister. She claims he was attacked by a cat with a hammer and the father accepts her story. The parents quickly decide that, with Christina no longer available, they should allow the son to choose one of the daughters as a replacement. After fondling both sisters simultaneously in the bath with his eyes closed, he chooses the elder, who is later dressed and prepared by the mother for the sexual encounter. The elder daughter is visibly uncomfortable during intercourse, and afterwards recites a threatening passage from Rocky IV to her brother.
The elder daughter's agitation begins to show during the children's dance performance staged for the parents' wedding anniversary. She dances the choreography from Flashdance to the music of Matteo Carcassi to exhaustion and then devours her dessert. Later, in the bathroom, she smashes her face with a dumbbell to knock out a dogtooth. Smiling and bloody, she runs undetected through the garden and to the car, where she lets herself into the trunk and closes it over her. The father discovers her blood and tooth fragments in the sink that night. He runs outside the compound and searches in the tall grass while the other three remain just inside the grounds, barking like dogs on all fours. In the morning, the son and younger daughter hold each other and kiss, while the father drives to work, unwittingly carrying the elder daughter in her hiding place. The father goes inside. The car sits outside, unattended, but the daughter remains in the trunk.
- Christos Stergioglou as father
- Michelle Valley as mother
- Aggeliki Papoulia as older daughter
- Mary Tsoni as younger daughter
- Christos Passalis as son
- Anna Kalaitzidou as Christina
Dogtooth was the feature film début for Boo Productions, an Athens-based advertising company. The Greek Film Center supported the project with about €200,000 and much of the production was done with help from volunteers. Another €50,000 was offered by the production studio, bringing the overall budget to €250,000. Anna Kalaitzidou and Christos Passalis were stage actors who were cast after having worked with Lanthimos earlier. Mary Tsoni was not a professional actress, but a singer in a punk band. Lanthimos had an open approach to both acting and visual style, as he thought it would look fake if he involved too much in the details. It wasn't until the rehearsals started that he began to develop the idea of how the film should be shot, a style where he tried to combine a realistic environment with "really strict framing and a cool, surreal look to go with the narrative".
The film premiered on 18 May at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, and went on to screen within such festivals as Toronto International Film Festival and Maryland Film Festival. It was released in Greece on 11 November the same year through Feelgood Entertainment. Verve Pictures picked up the British distribution rights and launched it on 23 April 2010. The American premiere was on 25 June 2010, managed by Kino International.
In its home country, Greek critic Dimitris Danikas gave the film a rating of eight out of ten ("with enthusiasm") and characterizes it as "black, surreal, nightmarish." He believes that Dogtooth is as important for Greek cinema as Theodoros Angelopoulos' 1970 film Reconstruction. He goes on to say "Lanthimos composes and goes from one level to another like a wildcat-creator, constantly and continuously maintaining the same rigorous style. Hence the aphasia; hence the uniformity; hence the submission and the scheduled mass culture; hence also the serial killer; hence, however, the disobedience, the anarchy. As I said at the beginning: Dogtooth has the surrealism of Buñuel, the scalpel of Haneke, the underground horror of a thriller without the splatter. Perfect." Danikas characterized Dogtooth's Academy Award nomination as "the greatest Greek triumph of recent years." Columnist Dimitris Bouras, writing for Kathimerini, refers to "the beneficial effects that the prestigious award could have" and believes that the nomination reveals three interesting facts: "1) in Greece we need to be extroverts (and not only in cinema), 2) exportable product is whatever has an identity, 3) Dogtooth's nomination is like an investment – manna from the heaven of Hollywood for the developing Greek cinema."
As of 2011 February the film had a 93% approval rating from critics at Rotten Tomatoes. The Scotsman's Alistair Harkness hailed director Lanthimos as "a bold new voice on the world cinema scene, someone who might soon be elevated to a similar position as those twin pillars of Euro provocation: Lars von Trier and Michael Haneke," although the film is "not... designed simply to shock in the way von Trier's work often does,... nor does it have that annoyingly prescriptive, punitive air of superiority favoured by Haneke's films."
Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian praised the filmmakers' technique, finding it "superbly shot, with some deadpan, elegant compositions, and intentionally skewiff framings". Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) gave the film three out of four stars. He noted the director's "complete command of visuals and performances. His cinematography is like a series of family photographs of a family with something wrong with it. His dialogue sounds composed entirely of sentences memorized from tourist phrase books." Mark Olsen of the Los Angeles Times said "All of the film's purposeful weirdness is conveyed with an unaffected simplicity that recalls the dead-aim haphazard compositions of photographer William Eggleston." He concluded that "as a film, it's pure and singular, but it's not quite fully formed enough to be what one could call truly visionary." A. O. Scott of The New York Times wrote that the film "at times seems as much an exercise in perversity as an examination of it" and "The static wide-screen compositions are beautiful and strange, with the heads and limbs of the characters frequently cropped. The light is gauzy and diffuse, helping to produce an atmosphere that is insistently and not always unpleasantly dreamlike. You might think of paintings by Balthus or maybe Alex Katz, though the implied stories in those pictures are more genuinely evocative and haunting than the actual narrative of Dogtooth."
Several reviewers, such as Harkness and Bradshaw, made comparisons to the 2008 Fritzl case, although they pointed out that the screenplay had been written before the case emerged. Scott, like Ebert, made references to homeschooling.
The film's larger meanings eluded easy expression. Scott called the film "a conversation piece. Though the conversation may... be more along the lines of: 'What was that?' 'I don’t know. Weird.' 'Yeah.' [shudder]. 'Weird.'" Olsen saw Dogtooth's substance as "part enigma, part allegory and even part sci-fi in its creation of a completely alternate reality." While Ebert found a "message...: God help children whose parents insanely demand unquestioning obedience to their deranged standards.... [S]ome have even described the film as a comedy. I wasn't laughing." For Bradshaw, the film investigates "the essential strangeness of something society insists is the benchmark of normality: the family, a walled city state with its own autocratic rule and untellable secrets." Harkness notes the "absolute mockery the situation makes of the perfect family ideal" where "Lanthimos isn't interested in making specific political or social points and he refuses to offer any clarifying backstory"; he found Dogtooth's oddness "as organic and playful as its impact is incisor sharp." 
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou ended the Cabinet meeting on 25 January 2011 by saying "The news that the film Dogtooth by Yorgos Lanthimos is nominated for Best Foreign Language Film goes far beyond the world of cinema, arts and culture. It concerns the whole country, its people, the new generation of artists who follow the motto "Yes, we can do it" during difficult times." He continued by saying "I won't say that the news shows that miracles happen, because the success of Yorgos Lanthimos is based on hard work, talent and his endless potential. Features that characterize the creative forces which lead Greece to a new era; forces which deserve our support and they will have it. Bravo Yorgos."
The film was chosen unanimously by the Greek Film Committee to represent Greece at the Oscars.
|Academy Awards||Best Foreign Language Film||Yorgos Lanthimos||No|
|British Independent Film Awards||Best Foreign Film||Yorgos Lanthimos||No|
|Cannes Film Festival||Prix Un Certain Regard||Yorgos Lanthimos||Yes|
|Prix de la Jeunesse||Yorgos Lanthimos||Yes|
|Dublin International Film Festival||Dublin Film Critics Award||Yorgos Lanthimos||Yes|
|Estoril Film Festival||Grande Premio||Yorgos Lanthimos||Yes|
|Hellenic Film Academy Awards||Best Feature Film||Yorgos Lanthimos||Yes|
|Best Director||Yorgos Lanthimos||Yes|
|Best Screenplay||Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou||Yes|
|Best Actress||Aggeliki Papoulia||No|
|Best Actor||Christos Sterioglou||No|
|Best Supporting Actor||Christos Passalis||Yes|
|Best Post-Production||Yorgos Mavropsaridis||Yes|
|Award for Special Effects and Film Innovation||George and Roulis Alahouzos||No|
|Ljubljana International Film Festival||Kingfisher Award||Yorgos Lanthimos||Yes|
|Mar del Plata Film Festival||Best Film||Yorgos Lanthimos||No|
|Montréal Festival of New Cinema||Feature Film Award||Yorgos Lanthimos||Yes|
|RiverRun International Film Festival||Best Director||Yorgos Lanthimos||Yes|
|Sarajevo Film Festival||Special Prize of the Jury||Yorgos Lanthimos||Yes|
|Heart of Sarajevo (Best Actress)||Aggeliki Papoulia and Mary Tsoni||Yes|
|Sitges Film Festival||Best Motion Picture Fantastic Award||Yorgos Lanthimos||Yes|
|Citizen Kane Award for Best Directorial Revelation||Yorgos Lanthimos||Yes|
|Best Film||Yorgos Lanthimos||No|
|Stockholm International Film Festival||Bronze Horse||Yorgos Lanthimos||Yes|
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- List of submissions to the 83rd Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film
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