Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Quick Look: DOGTOOTH

Dogtooth is a severe, uncompromising film about a father (Christos Stergioglou) who, along with his wife (Michele Valley), has kept his children locked up for their entire lives, feeding them a systematic drip of disinformation to better keep them under his total control. His son (Hristos Passalis) and two daughters (Aggeliki Papoulia and Mary Tsoni) are now in their early twenties but speak in odd clipped sentences and have strange gazes. They move awkwardly. They are extremely impressionable. They’re stunted; for all intents and purposes they’re still children. They’ve barely left the house and even then they don’t go any further than their secluded, walled-off backyard. Giorgos Lanthimos’s film is as intensely controlled as these children are, with framing that will often cut off heads and leave important information out of the frame. The camera holds back, rarely moves, and often lingers much longer than you’d expect. Disturbing, queasily intimate moments unfold in excruciating detail. Though many have acclaimed the film, which was a surprise nominee for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, I must admit that I found myself merely squirming in my seat. It’s not an easy film to watch, but it’s clearly not intended to be. This film’s stationary camera holds its gaze for interminable lengths of time on acts of horrendous abuse and frighteningly unhinged behavior. As an aggressively, claustrophobically uncomfortable metaphor for closed minds and building your own reality, it works in exactly the way it intends to. But its also a film that’s stifling, repetitive and without any sense of stakes. It’s a closed loop of awful behavior with really only one (1) great scene, a mesmerizing homegrown talent show that begins with a simply plucked guitar melody and ends in a complete spasmodic breakdown. Is Dogtooth worth seeing? Perhaps. It’s certainly unique and those who are intrigued may find it rewarding. Though I admire to a certain extent its uncompromising effect, and while I’m curious to view it again, I don’t need to see it any time soon.

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