Certainly one of the more surprising moments of the 2010 Academy Award nominations had to be the inclusion of the Greek oddity "Dogtooth" among the Best Foreign Film nominees. This psychological freak show seems designed to polarize audiences with its controversial presentation of an isolated family as a horror construct. The film, with relatively no political or social context, is likely to be interpreted in many ways by viewers searching for a grand significance to the proceedings. Having seen the film twice now, however, I'm not sure that I can really establish the filmmaker's true intentions with any veracity. So I won't try. Somewhere between perverse satire, bent domestic drama, and disturbing psychological horror lies the film "Dogtooth"--a challenging and unrepentantly bleak, yet undeniably gripping and fascinating, example of experimental cinema.
"Dogtooth" depicts the unorthodox life of one family. The three teenage children have been raised in a controlled environment in which they've seemingly never left the family's secluded estate. Subjected to the teaching of their parents, they know nothing of the real dangers or inherent freedoms available in the outside world. As their story unfolds, in horrifying daily detail, the complete destruction of their psyches, intelligence, and individuality at the hands of their parents is absolutely repellant. This truly is one of the more disturbing depictions of psychological torture (even if the kids don't know it!) that has ever been captured on film. Not graphically violent, but emotionally disconcerting, this film will insinuate itself into your mind--and it's absolutely unsettling. One girl, in particular, starts to act out in increasingly violent ways and, as much as we do want to protect them, kids will grow up to experience life in ways we might not have intended.
To be sure, I love to be surprised by film--the more offbeat or skewed the better. In describing a movie's narrative for others, I try to only paint a picture in broad strokes and not spoil the mysteries yet to unfold. That's why I've been purposefully vague in my description (although, there is some controversial sexual content which might offend certain viewers). With "Dogtooth," however, I might make a disclaimer. This will not be a film for everyone--those that dislike "Dogtooth" will invariably hate it with every fiber of their being! Those that like "Dogtooth," however, will be caught up in a story unlike any other. I was unable to pull my eyes away from this film. Like a disturbing nightmare, my curiosity kept me glued to the every frame of this movie. It is well acted and well made--but this is just a caution to more sensitive viewers. "Dogtooth" disturbed and confounded me, in almost every way, but I was unable to tear myself away from its sick allure. KGHarris, 1/11.