Still from the film Dogtooth
still from the film DOGTOOTH

Homeschooling takes on a sinister edge in this measured and visually arresting film from Greek auteur Yorgos Lanthimos.

An idyllic and remote family retreat houses a factory owner, his wife, their son, and two daughters. The placid surface of the luxurious surroundings is troubled early in the film, as we see the children learning from a tape player vocabulary lessons unmoored from reality: "A motorway is a very strong wind, a carbine is a beautiful white bird," the tape says. Eventually, we learn that the house has been walled off, and the children have been told that the outside world is filled with ravenous cats hungry for human flesh. They have never left the house.

The question of why the parents are imprisoning the children in an uncanny fantasy world may be answered, in part, by the depressing factory that their father disappears to in order to support their odd fantasyland, but for the most part, the mystery is left alone. The claustrophobia of the plot is eclipsed by the film's dramatically canted cinematography: each shot is carefully composed with an eye toward dismembering angles, vertiginous depths of field, and airless atmospheres.

With Dogtooth, Lanthimos provides us with an ambiguous social critique, an unsettling dreamscape, and a sincere questioning of the psychosexual dynamics of the middle-class family. The film won the Prix Un Certain Regard at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Part of our series “Three by Jorgos Lanthimos”, the film screens in a 35mm print courtesy of Kino Lorber.

Film website:

In Greek with English subtitles