Yorgos Lanthimos’ Dogtooth (2009) is an unsettling examination of how easily the desire to control others can lead to tyranny. The film follows three teenagers confined with their parents in an isolated Greek country house. Surrounded by high fences on all sides and in possession of a carefully manicured lawn and swimming pool, their lodgings give a whole new meaning to the term ‘gated community’. The teenagers, all on the brink of adulthood, spend their days playing twisted games of endurance, swimming or listening to endless tape recordings misinforming them about words and their meanings e.g. the salt cellar becomes a ‘telephone’, small yellow flowers are renamed ‘zombies’.
There are the usual rivalries and jealousies between the siblings, but these are often settled in abrupt acts of violence. All the while, both ‘Mother’ and ‘Father’ exert control over their children (and their use of language) through misinformation and denial. It’s not hard to see why Lanthimos’ disturbing and unique film has won the director such critical acclaim. The story and cinematography are audacious and highly original, whilst the tightly framed, often headless shot selections and characters breaking in and out of the viewfinder gives a vivid sense of disjointedness to proceedings. At the same time, Lanthimos’ film is extremely self-referential – the characters watch videos of themselves, with these personal records quickly becoming their entire world.