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Dogtooth (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byYorgos Lanthimos
Written by
Produced by
CinematographyThimios Bakatakis
Edited byYorgos Mavropsaridis
Boo Productions
Distributed byFeelgood Entertainment
Release dates
  • 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 psychological drama film directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. Written by Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou, the film is about a husband and wife (Christos Stergioglou and Michelle Valley) who keep their children (Angeliki Papoulia, Christos Passalis, and Mary Tsoni) ignorant of the world outside their property well into adulthood.

Dogtooth is Lanthimos's third feature film. 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.


A couple live in a fenced-in compound with their adult son and two adult daughters. The offspring have been raised with deceptive methods, isolated from the outside world. The parents have told the offspring they will be ready to leave the family home once they lose a dogtooth, and that one can only leave safely by car. The offspring 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 behavior with stickers and punish bad behavior with violence.

The father pays a security guard at his factory, Christina, to come to the house and have sex with his son. Frustrated by the son's refusal to give her cunnilingus, Christina trades her headband with the elder daughter in exchange for oral sex 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 a stray cat enters the family's garden, the son kills it with a pair of pruning shears.The father explains that such cats are deadly. Deciding to take advantage of the incident, the father shreds his clothes, covers himself in fake blood, and tells his offspring that their unseen brother was killed by a cat. 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 videocassettes of Hollywood movies in Christina's bag. She watches the films in secret and afterward 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 their son choose one of his sisters as a new sexual partner. After fondling both sisters with his eyes closed, he chooses the elder. When he engages in intercourse with her, she clearly has discomfort. She then afterwards recites threatening dialogue from a Hollywood film to him.

During a dance performance for the parents' wedding anniversary, the younger daughter stops to rest, but the elder continues, performing the choreography from the film Flashdance (1983), 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. Although the family searches for her, she is not located. The next day; the father drives to work. He exits the car, still unaware his daughter is hiding in it. The film ends after the car, unattended, remains still; no indication is given whether the hiding daughter is able to exit the vehicle, or if she is merely waiting.



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.[4] Another €50,000 was offered by the production studio.[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: she was a singer in a punk band.[5] 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. Only when rehearsals started did he begin 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".[6]


The film premiered on 18 May 2009 at the Cannes Film Festival,[7] and went on to screen at festivals such as Toronto and Maryland. It was released in Greece on 11 November 2009 through Feelgood Entertainment.[8][9] Verve Pictures picked up the British distribution rights and launched it on 23 April 2010.[6] The American premiere was on 25 June 2010, managed by Kino International.[10]



Greek critic Dimitris Danikas gave Dogtooth a rating of eight out of ten ("with enthusiasm"), calling it "black, surreal, nightmarish" and writing that Dogtooth is as important for Greek cinema as Theodoros Angelopoulos's 1970 film Reconstitution.[11] Danikas added, "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."[11] Danikas characterized Dogtooth's Academy Award nomination as "the greatest Greek triumph of recent years."[12] Columnist Dimitris Bouras, writing for Kathimerini, mentioned "the beneficial effects that the prestigious award could have" and wrote 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."[13]


On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 93% approval rating based on review from 70 critics, with an average score of 7.70/10; the site's "critics consensus" reads: "It'll be too disturbing – and meandering – for some, but Dogtooth is as disturbing and startlingly original as modern filmmaking gets".[14] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 73 out of 100 based on 17 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[15]

Alistair Harkness of The Scotsman hailed 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", but added that 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."[16]

Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian praised the filmmaking, finding Dogtooth "superbly shot, with some deadpan, elegant compositions, and intentionally skewiff framings".[17] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three out of four stars, noting 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."[18] Mark Olsen of the Los Angeles Times wrote that "All of the film's purposeful weirdness is conveyed with an unaffected simplicity that recalls the dead-aim haphazard compositions of photographer William Eggleston", concluding 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."[19]

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 that "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."[20]

Several reviewers, such as Harkness and Bradshaw, made comparisons to the 2008 Fritzl case, although they noted that the screenplay was written before the case emerged.[16][17] Scott, like Ebert, made references to homeschooling.[18][20] Resemblances have been noted to the 1972 Mexican film The Castle of Purity.[21][22]

The film's larger meaning 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.'"[20] Olsen saw Dogtooth's substance as "part enigma, part allegory and even part sci-fi in its creation of a completely alternate reality."[19] Ebert found a "message" in the film, which he put as: "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."[18] 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."[17] Harkness noted 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", and found Dogtooth's oddness "as organic and playful as its impact is incisor sharp."[16]

In a 2012 interview, filmmaker David Lynch called Dogtooth "a fantastic comedy".[23]


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, "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 Greek Film Committee unanimously chose Dogtooth to represent Greece at the Oscars.[25]

Accolades for Dogtooth
Event Category Nominee Result
Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film[26][27][28] Yorgos Lanthimos Nominated
British Independent Film Awards Best Foreign Film[29][30] Nominated
Cannes Film Festival Prix Un Certain Regard[31][32] Won
Prix de la Jeunesse[31] Won
Dublin International Film Festival Dublin Film Critics Award[33] Won
Estoril Film Festival Grande Premio[34] Won
Hellenic Film Academy Awards Best Feature Film[35][36] Won
Best Director[35] Won
Best Screenplay[35] Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou Won
Best Actress[35] Angeliki Papoulia Nominated
Best Actor[35] Christos Sterioglou Nominated
Best Supporting Actor[35] Christos Passalis Won
Best Post-Production[35] Yorgos Mavropsaridis Won
Award for Special Effects and Film Innovation[35] George and Roulis Alahouzos Nominated
Ljubljana International Film Festival Kingfisher Award[37][38] Yorgos Lanthimos Won
Mar del Plata Film Festival Best Film Nominated
Montréal Festival of New Cinema Feature Film Award[39] Won
RiverRun International Film Festival Best Director[40] Won
Sarajevo Film Festival Special Jury Prize[41] Won
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[42] Won
Best Film Nominated
Stockholm International Film Festival Bronze Horse[43] Won

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Dogtooth (18)". British Board of Film Classification. 8 January 2010. Archived from the original on 21 January 2015. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  2. ^ a b Rapold, Nicolas (24 June 2010). "From Greece, a Parable About ... Something". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 3 May 2019. Retrieved 24 June 2010.
  3. ^ Dogtooth at Box Office Mojo
  4. ^ Katsareas, Eftehia (3 December 2009). "The surprising Greek film winning fans abroad". cnn.com. CNN. Archived from the original on 17 March 2010. Retrieved 8 May 2010.
  5. ^ Lanthimos, Giorgos (26 April 2010). "Interview: Giorgos Lanthimos, director of Dogtooth". sound-screen.co.uk (Interview). Interviewed by Priscilla Eyles. Archived from the original on 6 July 2010. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  6. ^ a b Lanthimos by, Yorgos (5 April 2010). "Dogtooth: Interview with Yorgos Lanthimos". Electric Sheep Magazine (Interview). Interviewed by Pamela Jahn. Archived from the original on 25 April 2010. Retrieved 8 May 2010.
  7. ^ "Dogtooth – Press Kit" (PDF). Cannes Film Festival. festival-cannes.com. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 August 2011. Retrieved 23 May 2009.
  8. ^ "Film profile: Dogtooth". Cineuropa. Archived from the original on 18 January 2012. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
  9. ^ Proimakis, Joseph (2 September 2010). "Interview with Irini Souganidou • Distributor, Feelgood Entertainment". Cineuropa. Archived from the original on 13 July 2012. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
  10. ^ "Dogtooth". indieWire. Archived from the original on 28 January 2011. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
  11. ^ a b Danikas, Dimitris (22 October 2009). "Greek leadership". TA NEA Online. Archived from the original on 9 March 2012. Retrieved 31 January 2011.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ Bouras, Dimitris (31 January 2011). "Investing Extroversion". Kathimerini. Archived from the original on 2 February 2012. Retrieved 31 January 2011.
  14. ^ "Dogtooth (Kynodontas) (2010)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Archived from the original on 27 November 2017. Retrieved 17 October 2020.
  15. ^ "Dogtooth Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on 7 April 2018. Retrieved 23 April 2018.
  16. ^ a b c Harkness, Alistair (24 April 2010). "Film Review: Dogtooth". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. Archived from the original on 17 February 2024. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
  17. ^ a b c Bradshaw, Peter (22 April 2010). "Dogtooth". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 5 February 2015. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
  18. ^ a b c Ebert, Roger (7 July 2010). "Dogtooth". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on 24 February 2011. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
  19. ^ a b Olsen, Mark (7 January 2011). "Movie review: 'Dogtooth'". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 21 January 2011. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
  20. ^ a b c Scott, A. O. (25 June 2010). "A Sanctuary and a Prison". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 24 February 2011. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
  21. ^ "Movie Marker Dogtooth". 23 February 2013. Archived from the original on 21 April 2014. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  22. ^ "The AV Club Dogtooth". The A.V. Club. 25 June 2010. Archived from the original on 6 August 2013. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  23. ^ Zeitchik, Steven (22 June 2012). "David Lynch says he doesn't have any ideas for a new film". Archived from the original on 4 March 2020. Retrieved 11 March 2018 – via Los Angeles Times.
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ "Η ταινία "Κυνόδοντας" πηγαίνει στα Oσκαρ". enet.gr. Archived from the original on 7 March 2012. Retrieved 27 January 2011.
  26. ^ "Greece Submits "Dogtooth" for Foreign Language Film Entry @ Academy Awards". Greek Reporter Hollywood. 27 September 2010. Archived from the original on 18 July 2013. Retrieved 28 September 2010.
  27. ^ "Beautiful but doomed: Greece submits 'Dogtooth' for Oscars". incontention.com. Archived from the original on 17 February 2024. Retrieved 28 September 2010.
  28. ^ "The 83rd Academy Awards | 2011". Oscars.org | Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 30 September 2017.
  29. ^ "The Moet British Independent Film Awards Announce Nominations and Jury for 13th Edition". bifa.org. Archived from the original on 4 November 2010. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
  30. ^ "British Independent Film Awards: 2010 Winners". bifa.org. Archived from the original on 9 December 2010. Retrieved 6 December 2010.
  31. ^ a b "Un Certain Regard Awards Ceremony". Cannes Film Festival. festival-cannes.com. 23 May 2009. Retrieved 23 May 2009.[permanent dead link]
  32. ^ "PALMARES DU PRIX DE LA JEUNESSE AU FESTIVAL DE CANNES". jeunesse-vie-associative.gouv.fr. Retrieved 2 February 2011.[permanent dead link]
  33. ^ "Fading light on film festival". irishtimes. 3 March 2010. Archived from the original on 13 August 2011. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  34. ^ "Main Prize Estoril Film Festival". Estoril Film Festival. estoril-filmfestival.com. Archived from the original on 1 March 2010. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  35. ^ a b c d e f g h "Greek Oscars were given away!". grreporter. Archived from the original on 18 August 2012. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  36. ^ "Night of Greek Oscars is coming!". grreporter. Archived from the original on 18 August 2012. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  37. ^ "'Dogtooth' wins first prize at Ljulbljana film festival". Athens News. Archived from the original on 6 March 2012. Retrieved 2 February 2011.
  38. ^ "Press Release No. 11 21st Ljubljana International Film Festival – LIFFe" (PDF). Ljubljana International Film Festival. liffe.si. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 August 2011. Retrieved 2 February 2011.
  39. ^ "Dogtooth hooks Split". cineuropa.org. 31 May 2010. Archived from the original on 31 December 2013. Retrieved 27 January 2011.
  40. ^ "2010 RiverRun Award Winners". riverrunfilm. Archived from the original on 15 July 2011. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  41. ^ "15th SARAJEVO FILM FESTIVAL awards". Sarajevo Film Festival. Archived from the original on 27 October 2016. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  42. ^ "Dogtooth: Sitges Film Festival". Sitges Film Festival. sitgesfilmfestival.com. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  43. ^ "Dogtooth – Stockholms filmfestival". Stockholm International Film Festival. stockholmfilmfestival.se. Archived from the original on 29 March 2016. Retrieved 7 May 2010.

External links[edit]