Dogtooth (film)

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Dogtooth(2009) poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
Produced by Iraklis Mavroidis
Athina Rachel Tsangari
Yorgos Tsourianis
Written by Yorgos Lanthimos
Efthymis Filippou
Starring Christos Stergioglou
Michelle Valley
Angeliki Papoulia
Mary Tsoni
Christos Passalis
Cinematography Thimios Bakatatakis
Edited by Yorgos Mavropsaridis
Boo Productions
Distributed by Feelgood Entertainment
Release dates
  • 18 May 2009 (2009-05-18) (Cannes)
  • 11 November 2009 (2009-11-11) (Greece)
Running time
97 minutes[1]
Country Greece
Language Greek
Budget 250,000[2] (US$323,000)
Box office $384,147[3]

Dogtooth (Greek: Κυνόδοντας, translit. Kynodontas) is a 2009 Greek 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 drama stars Christos Stergioglou, Michelle Valley, Angeliki Papoulia, Mary Tsoni, and Christos Passalis.

Lanthimos' second feature film[4] 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 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. 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 – traveling both ways blindfolded – where she performs sexual favours 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 behaviour.

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 (played on the guitar by her brother) 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 boot 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 boot.



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, 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".[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 Reconstruction.[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 July 2014 the film had a 92% approval rating from critics at Rotten Tomatoes.[16] 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."[17]

Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian praised the filmmakers' technique, finding it "superbly shot, with some deadpan, elegant compositions, and intentionally skewiff framings".[18] 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."[19] 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."[20][20] 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."[21]

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.[17][18] Scott, like Ebert, made references to homeschooling.[19][21] Resemblances have been noted to the 1972 Mexican film The Castle of Purity.[22][23]

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.'"[21] Olsen saw Dogtooth‍ '​s substance as "part enigma, part allegory and even part sci-fi in its creation of a completely alternate reality."[20] 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."[19] 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."[18] 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." [17]


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."[24] 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."[24]

The film was chosen unanimously by the Greek Film Committee to represent Greece at the Oscars.[25]

Event Category Winner/Nominee Won
Academy Awards[26][27] Best Foreign Language Film Yorgos Lanthimos No[28]
British Independent Film Awards[29][30] Best Foreign Film Yorgos Lanthimos No
Cannes Film Festival[31][32] Prix Un Certain Regard Yorgos Lanthimos Yes
Prix de la Jeunesse Yorgos Lanthimos Yes
Dublin International Film Festival[33] Dublin Film Critics Award Yorgos Lanthimos Yes
Estoril Film Festival[34] Grande Premio Yorgos Lanthimos Yes
Hellenic Film Academy Awards[35][36] 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[37][38] Kingfisher Award Yorgos Lanthimos Yes
Mar del Plata Film Festival Best Film Yorgos Lanthimos No
Montréal Festival of New Cinema[39] Feature Film Award Yorgos Lanthimos Yes
RiverRun International Film Festival[40] Best Director Yorgos Lanthimos Yes
Sarajevo Film Festival[41][42] Special Prize of the Jury Yorgos Lanthimos Yes
Heart of Sarajevo (Best Actress) Aggeliki Papoulia and Mary Tsoni Yes
Sitges Film Festival[43] 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[44] Bronze Horse Yorgos Lanthimos Yes

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Dogtooth (18)". British Board of Film Classification. 8 January 2010. Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Rapold, Nicolas (2010-06-24). "From Greece, a Parable About ... Something". (NYTimes). 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. Retrieved 25 January 2011. 
  6. ^ Katsareas, Eftehia (3 December 2009). "The surprising Greek film winning fans abroad". (CNN). Retrieved 2010-05-08. 
  7. ^ Eyles, Priscilla (26 April 2010). "Interview: Giorgos Lanthimos, director of Dogtooth". Sound Screen. Retrieved 2010-05-08. 
  8. ^ a b Jahn, Pamela (2010-04-05). "Dogtooth: Interview with Yorgos Lanthimos". Electric Sheep Magazine. Retrieved 8 May 2010. 
  9. ^ "Dogtooth – Press Kit" (PDF). Cannes Film Festival. 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 (2009-10-22). "Greek leadership". TA NEA Online. Retrieved 31 January 2011. 
  14. ^ Danikas, Dimitris (26 January 2011). "Dogtooth Nominated for an Oscar". TA NEA Online. Retrieved 31 January 2011. 
  15. ^ Bouras, Dimitris (31 January 2011). "Investing Extroversion". Kathimerini. Retrieved 31 January 2011. 
  16. ^ "Rotten Tomatoes: Dogtooth (Kynodontas)". Flixter. Retrieved 21 February 2011. 
  17. ^ a b c Harkness, Alistair (2010-04-24). "Film Review: Dogtooth". The Scotsman (Edinburgh). Retrieved 2011-01-26. 
  18. ^ a b c Bradshaw, Peter (2010-04-22). "Dogtooth". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2011-01-26. 
  19. ^ a b c Ebert, Roger (2010-07-07). "Dogtooth". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2011-01-26. 
  20. ^ a b c Olsen, Mark (2011-01-07). "Movie review: 'Dogtooth'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-26. 
  21. ^ a b c Scott, A. O. (2010-06-25). "A Sanctuary and a Prison". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-01-26. 
  22. ^ "Movie Marker Dogtooth". Retrieved 7 May 2013. 
  23. ^ "The AV Club Dogtooth". Retrieved 7 May 2013. 
  24. ^ a b Zoumboulakis, Yannis (26 January 2011). "Dogtooth biting his uncle Oscar". TO BHMA Online. Retrieved 31 January 2011. 
  25. ^ "Η ταινία "Κυνόδοντας" πηγαίνει στα Oσκαρ". Retrieved 27 January 2011. 
  26. ^ "Greece Submits "Dogtooth" for Foreign Language Film Entry @ Academy Awards". Greek Reporter Hollywood. Retrieved 28 September 2010. 
  27. ^ "Beautiful but doomed: Greece submits ‘Dogtooth’ for Oscars". Retrieved 28 September 2010. 
  28. ^ "Nominees for the 83rd Academy Awards". Retrieved 2011-01-25. 
  29. ^ "The Moet British Independent Film Awards Announce Nominations and Jury for 13th Edition". Retrieved 2010-11-21. 
  30. ^ "British Independent Film Awards: 2010 Winners". Retrieved 2010-12-06. 
  31. ^ "Un Certain Regard Awards Ceremony". Cannes Film Festival. Retrieved 2009-05-23. 
  32. ^ "PALMARES DU PRIX DE LA JEUNESSE AU FESTIVAL DE CANNES". Retrieved 2 February 2011. 
  33. ^ "Fading light on film festival". irishtimes. 2010-03-03. Retrieved 2010-05-07. 
  34. ^ "Main Prize Estoril Film Festival". Estoril Film Festival. Retrieved 2010-05-07. 
  35. ^ "Greek Oscars were given away!". grreporter. Retrieved 2010-05-07. 
  36. ^ "Night of Greek Oscars is coming!". grreporter. Retrieved 2010-05-07. 
  37. ^ "'Dogtooth' wins first prize at Ljulbljana film festival". Athens News. Retrieved 2011-02-02. 
  38. ^ "Press Release No. 11 21st Ljubljana International Film Festival – LIFFe" (PDF). Ljubljana International Film Festival. Retrieved 2011-02-02. 
  39. ^ "Dogtooth hooks Split". Retrieved 2011-01-27. 
  40. ^ "2010 RiverRun Award Winners". riverrunfilm. Retrieved 2010-05-07. 
  41. ^ "Dogtooth, Ordinary People, Eastern Plays and Storm Awarded in Trieste". Retrieved 2010-05-07. 
  42. ^ "Dogtooth Receives an Award at the 31st Cinemed". Retrieved 2010-05-07. 
  43. ^ "Dogtooth: Sitges Film Festival". Sitges Film Festival. Retrieved 2010-05-07. 
  44. ^ "Dogtooth – Stockholms filmfestival". Stockholm International Film Festival. Retrieved 2010-05-07. 

External links[edit]