While a very different kind of cinema feverishly grips the globe, it would do us well if we periodically come back to a parallel kind of cinema as suggested by my editor, as a refuge or as therapy or just by matter of choice. Parallel or Indie or even Arthouse cinema aside, if you consider yourself a cinephile and that you may have seen “everything”, I advise you to watch ‘Dogtooth’, or as it is originally known, ‘Kynodontas’ in Greek, after that. If there would be certain films capable of changing your “everything”, I believe ‘Dogtooth’ to be among them.
You probably would have already heard about the Greek auteur Yorgos Lanthimos following his successful stint at the 2019 Oscars with ‘The Favourite’, and his other films that made an impact on western audiences, chief among them being ‘The Lobster’ and ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’. While having seen a fair share of this impactful director’s works, I am yet to form an informed opinion on his directorial style still, but I’ll give you that his films are unlike anything that you may have watched. To term them weird or eccentric would be simplifying and even vilifying them beyond belief and sense. The same would be the case with his 2009 Oscar nominated feature ‘Dogtooth’.
Well, I will reserve saying what I felt while watching ‘Dogtooth’ and the kind of diverse things it made me feel till the end of the article, I can say this: ‘Dogtooth’ will take you back to the days when he was truly unbound, and independent as a filmmaker, and might I add, still exploring and experimenting, as opposed to now when he is a filmmaker more confident and grounded in his craft and selling exactly that.
Unassumingly going over the internet, I came across a particular piece claiming that arthouse cinema was meant to inspire dialogue and conversation. Even the message-giving, sermonising or case studies in philosophies are reserved for a different tier in commercial cinema. I may not have fully agreed with that, now that I perceive every single indie flick I have seen, Hollywood or not, it does become an interesting lens for me to spot and carefully classify one.
The same lens also proves useful when you look at the case in point: ‘Dogtooth’ doesn’t have a definite start and doesn’t have an inspiring end, or an end at all. It just cuts, leaving you to wonder what fate awaited the characters you just spent 90 minutes with. It doesn’t have a single character that is likeable or even relatable, even if you might grow slightly empathetic of one of the kids, especially the elder daughter. Yet still, ‘Dogtooth’ manages to get to you and stay: its idyllic setting seldom unsettling as its residents, and the utopia created too false to sustain longer than it did in the film. Without going any further, we jump straight to a brief summary of the plot followed by an examination of its pressing themes that it chooses to convey to subtly. Read on.