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’.
The sense of voyeurism implicit in cinema is replaced by the illusion of reality TV as the house’s high fences prevent the Greek teens from seeing outside their prison, and others from looking in. There is (intentionally) little opportunity for us to truly identify with any of the characters and even the film’s explicit sex scenes are mechanical and devoid of eroticism. Instead, Lanthimos’ camera chooses to linger on what is distinctly unerotic – a cassette player, feet, the boot of a car – devaluing our pleasure. Some have labelled Dogtooth a black comedy, and while there isn’t much to laugh about, there’s certainly plenty to admire. Lanthimos has produced a film that continues to run in your mind after the credits roll, only we are free to enjoy what the characters lack – normality.