Dogtooth (film)

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Dogtooth(2009) poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byYorgos Lanthimos
Produced by
Written by
CinematographyThimios Bakatakis
Edited byYorgos Mavropsaridis
Boo Productions
Distributed byFeelgood Entertainment
Release date
  • 18 May 2009 (2009-05-18) (Cannes)
  • 11 November 2009 (2009-11-11) (Greece)
Running time
97 minutes[1]
Box office$1.4 million[3]

Dogtooth (Greek: Κυνόδοντας; Kynodontas) is a 2009 Greek drama film co-written (with Efthymis Filippou) and directed by Yorgos Lanthimos about a husband and wife who keep their children ignorant of the world outside their property well into adulthood. The film stars Christos Stergioglou, Michelle Valley, Angeliki Papoulia, Mary Tsoni and Christos Passalis.

The film is Lanthimos' second feature film[4] and it won the Prix Un Certain Regard at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 83rd Academy Awards.[5]


A couple, their adult son and two adult daughters live in a fenced in compound. The children have no knowledge of the outside world; their parents say they will be ready to leave once they lose a dogtooth, and that one can only leave safely by car. The children entertain themselves with endurance games, such as keeping a finger in hot water. They believe they have a brother on the other side of the fence to whom they throw supplies or stones. The parents reward good behaviour with stickers and bad behaviour with violence.

The father pays a security guard at his factory, Christina, to come to the house and have sex with the son. Frustrated by the son's refusal to give her cunnilingus, Christina trades her headband with the elder daughter in exchange for cunnilingus from her. The elder daughter persuades the younger daughter to lick her shoulder by bartering the headband. Later, the younger daughter volunteers to lick the elder again. The elder has nothing to offer in exchange, but the younger does not mind and experiments by licking other body parts.

The father visits a dog training facility and demands to have his dog returned. The trainer refuses because the dog has not finished its training, and asks: "Do we want an animal or a friend?"

When the children are terrified by a stray cat in the garden, the son kills it with a pair of pruning shears. Deciding to take advantage of the incident, the father shreds his clothes, covers himself in fake blood, and tells his children that their unseen brother was killed by a cat, the most dangerous creature. After he teaches them to bark on all fours to fend off cats, the family holds a memorial service for the brother.

Christina again barters for oral sex from the elder daughter. The daughter rejects her offer of hair gel and demands the Hollywood film tapes in her bag. She watches the films in secret and afterwards recreates scenes and quotes their dialogue. When the father discovers the tapes, he beats her with one of them, then goes to Christina's flat and hits her with her VCR, cursing her future children to be corrupted by "bad influences".

The parents decide that, with Christina no longer available, they will have the son choose one of his sisters as a new sexual partner. After fondling both sisters with his eyes closed, he chooses the elder. She is uncomfortable during their sex and afterwards recites threatening dialogue from the Hollywood film to her brother.

During a dance performance for the parents' wedding anniversary, the younger daughter stops to rest, but the elder continues and dances the choreography from the film Flashdance, disturbing her parents. That night, she knocks out one of her dogteeth with a dumbbell and hides in the boot of her father's car. The father discovers her tooth fragments and searches for her fruitlessly. He drives to work the next day; the car sits outside the factory, unattended.



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.[6] Another €50,000 was offered by the production studio, bringing the overall budget to €250,000.[2] 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.[7] Lanthimos had an open approach to both acting and visual style and felt it would look fake if he involved himself too much in the details. It wasn't until the rehearsals started that he began to develop an idea of the style in which the film should be shot: one where he tried to combine a realistic environment with "really strict framing and a cool, surreal look to go with the narrative".[8]


The film premiered on 18 May at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival,[9] 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.[10][11] Verve Pictures picked up the British distribution rights and launched it on 23 April 2010.[8] The American premiere was on 25 June 2010, managed by Kino International.[12]


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 Reconstitution.[13] 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."[13] Danikas characterized Dogtooth's Academy Award nomination as "the greatest Greek triumph of recent years."[14] 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."[15]


As of 27 June 2019, the film had a 93% approval rating from critics at Rotten Tomatoes, based on 67 reviews with an average rating of 7.73/10. The site's consensus reads: "It'll be too disturbing – and meandering – for some, but Dogtooth is as disturbing and startlingly original as modern filmmaking gets".[16] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 73 out of 100, based on 17 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[17]

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."[18]

Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian praised the filmmakers' technique, finding it "superbly shot, with some deadpan, elegant compositions, and intentionally skewiff framings".[19] 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."[20] 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."[21]

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."[22]

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.[18][19] Scott, like Ebert, made references to homeschooling.[20][22] Resemblances have been noted to the 1972 Mexican film The Castle of Purity.[23][24]

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.'"[22] Olsen saw Dogtooth's substance as "part enigma, part allegory and even part sci-fi in its creation of a completely alternate reality."[21] 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."[20] 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."[19] 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."[18]

Filmmaker David Lynch said it is one of his favorite recent films, claiming it's "a fantastic comedy".[25]


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."[26] 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."[26]

The film was chosen unanimously by the Greek Film Committee to represent Greece at the Oscars.[27]

Event Category Nominee Result Ref.
Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film Yorgos Lanthimos Nominated [28][29][30]
British Independent Film Awards Best Foreign Film Nominated [31][32]
Cannes Film Festival Prix Un Certain Regard Won [33][34]
Prix de la Jeunesse Won
Dublin International Film Festival Dublin Film Critics Award Won [35]
Estoril Film Festival Grande Premio Won [36]
Hellenic Film Academy Awards Best Feature Film Won [37][38]
Best Director Won
Best Screenplay Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou Won
Best Actress Angeliki Papoulia Nominated
Best Actor Christos Sterioglou Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Christos Passalis Won
Best Post-Production Yorgos Mavropsaridis Won
Award for Special Effects and Film Innovation George and Roulis Alahouzos Nominated
Ljubljana International Film Festival Kingfisher Award Yorgos Lanthimos Won [39][40]
Mar del Plata Film Festival Best Film Nominated
Montréal Festival of New Cinema Feature Film Award Won [41]
RiverRun International Film Festival Best Director Won [42]
Sarajevo Film Festival Special Jury Prize Won [43]
Heart of Sarajevo (Best Actress) Angeliki Papoulia and Mary Tsoni Won
Sitges Film Festival Best Motion Picture Fantastic Award Yorgos Lanthimos Won
Citizen Kane Award for Best Directorial Revelation Won [44]
Best Film Nominated
Stockholm International Film Festival Bronze Horse Won [45]

Potential influences[edit]

Arturo Ripstein made a very similar film, The Castle of Purity in 1970, in which a man keeps his family isolated, the brother and sister have an unusually close connection, and the sister is the one to break the impasse with the outside world. According to Ripstein, his film was based on a case that appeared in newspapers in the 1950s, of a man who isolated his family and did not allow them to leave. "There was a lot of talk about the case when I was a little boy."[46] Two works came from that case; a novel by Luis Spota called, "La Carcajadas del Gato", and a play by Sergio Galindo called, "Los Motivos del Lobos".

Actress Dolores del Río was interested in the rights to the play and contacted Luis Buñuel, who declined, but recommended his protege, Ripstein. "Dolores del Río called and said, "I would like to make an adaptation of the play", and I said, "I would prefer to go directly to the source and take the case from the newspapers."[46]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Dogtooth (18)". British Board of Film Classification. 8 January 2010. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  2. ^ a b Rapold, Nicolas (24 June 2010). "From Greece, a Parable About ... Something". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 June 2010.
  3. ^ Dogtooth at Box Office Mojo
  4. ^ "Kynodontas (Dogtooth)". Cannes Film Festival. Retrieved 23 May 2009.
  5. ^ "83rd Academy Awards Nominations Announced" (PDF). 25 January 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2011. Retrieved 25 January 2011.
  6. ^ Katsareas, Eftehia (3 December 2009). "The surprising Greek film winning fans abroad". CNN. Retrieved 8 May 2010.
  7. ^ Eyles, Priscilla (26 April 2010). "Interview: Giorgos Lanthimos, director of Dogtooth". Sound Screen via Internet Archive. Archived from the original on 6 July 2010. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  8. ^ a b Jahn, Pamela (5 April 2010). "Dogtooth: Interview with Yorgos Lanthimos". Electric Sheep Magazine. Retrieved 8 May 2010.
  9. ^ "Dogtooth – Press Kit" (PDF). Cannes Film Festival. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 August 2011. Retrieved 23 May 2009.
  10. ^ "Film profile: Dogtooth". Cineuropa. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
  11. ^ Proimakis, Joseph (2 September 2010). "Interview with Irini Souganidou • Distributor, Feelgood Entertainment". Cineuropa. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
  12. ^ "Dogtooth". indieWire. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
  13. ^ a b Danikas, Dimitris (22 October 2009). "Greek leadership". TA NEA Online. Archived from the original on 9 March 2012. Retrieved 31 January 2011.
  14. ^ Danikas, Dimitris (26 January 2011). "Dogtooth Nominated for an Oscar". TA NEA Online. Archived from the original on 29 January 2011. Retrieved 31 January 2011.
  15. ^ Bouras, Dimitris (31 January 2011). "Investing Extroversion". Kathimerini. Archived from the original on 2 February 2012. Retrieved 31 January 2011.
  16. ^ "Dogtooth (Kynodontas) (2010)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 17 October 2020.
  17. ^ "Dogtooth Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 23 April 2018.
  18. ^ a b c Harkness, Alistair (24 April 2010). "Film Review: Dogtooth". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
  19. ^ a b c Bradshaw, Peter (22 April 2010). "Dogtooth". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
  20. ^ a b c Ebert, Roger (7 July 2010). "Dogtooth". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
  21. ^ a b Olsen, Mark (7 January 2011). "Movie review: 'Dogtooth'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
  22. ^ a b c Scott, A. O. (25 June 2010). "A Sanctuary and a Prison". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
  23. ^ "Movie Marker Dogtooth". Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  24. ^ "The AV Club Dogtooth". Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  25. ^ Zeitchik, Steven (22 June 2012). "David Lynch says he doesn't have any ideas for a new film". Retrieved 11 March 2018 – via Los Angeles Times.
  26. ^ a b Zoumboulakis, Yannis (26 January 2011). "Dogtooth biting his uncle Oscar". TO BHMA Online. Archived from the original on 30 January 2011. Retrieved 31 January 2011.
  27. ^ "Η ταινία "Κυνόδοντας" πηγαίνει στα Oσκαρ". Retrieved 27 January 2011.
  28. ^ "Greece Submits "Dogtooth" for Foreign Language Film Entry @ Academy Awards". Greek Reporter Hollywood. Retrieved 28 September 2010.
  29. ^ "Beautiful but doomed: Greece submits 'Dogtooth' for Oscars". Retrieved 28 September 2010.
  30. ^ "The 83rd Academy Awards | 2011". | Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 30 September 2017.
  31. ^ "The Moet British Independent Film Awards Announce Nominations and Jury for 13th Edition". Archived from the original on 4 November 2010. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
  32. ^ "British Independent Film Awards: 2010 Winners". Archived from the original on 9 December 2010. Retrieved 6 December 2010.
  33. ^ "Un Certain Regard Awards Ceremony". Cannes Film Festival. Retrieved 23 May 2009.[permanent dead link]
  35. ^ "Fading light on film festival". irishtimes. 3 March 2010. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  36. ^ "Main Prize Estoril Film Festival". Estoril Film Festival. Archived from the original on 1 March 2010. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  37. ^ "Greek Oscars were given away!". grreporter. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  38. ^ "Night of Greek Oscars is coming!". grreporter. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  39. ^ "'Dogtooth' wins first prize at Ljulbljana film festival". Athens News. Archived from the original on 6 March 2012. Retrieved 2 February 2011.
  40. ^ "Press Release No. 11 21st Ljubljana International Film Festival – LIFFe" (PDF). Ljubljana International Film Festival. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 August 2011. Retrieved 2 February 2011.
  41. ^ "Dogtooth hooks Split". Retrieved 27 January 2011.
  42. ^ "2010 RiverRun Award Winners". riverrunfilm. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  43. ^ "15th SARAJEVO FILM FESTIVAL awards". Sarajevo Film Festival. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  44. ^ "Dogtooth: Sitges Film Festival". Sitges Film Festival. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  45. ^ "Dogtooth – Stockholms filmfestival". Stockholm International Film Festival. Archived from the original on 29 March 2016. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  46. ^ a b "Arturo Ripstein Visual History - PST LA LA".

External links[edit]