Soon your mother will give birth to two children and a dog.
Imagine two parents raising their children in total isolation where the very existence of a world outside their gated compound is hidden completely through indoctrinated lies and a life of deprivation. Think quietly about how unsettling that would be. Don’t think about how or why this is happening and don’t bother with where it’s going or how it all ends for now.
Congratulations! You just watched Dogtooth!
Dogtooth is tantalising if ultimately unfulfilling. It’s nature versus nurture in a household prison. Diving straight into the middle of the story, to its detriment, we see no explanation of why Father and Mother have imprisoned their children other than senseless cruelty. Why are the parents so calculated and cold? What is their plan? We never find out. The bitter ending which cuts short and questions the dramatic conclusion is equally senseless and cruel.
This lack of deeper meaning disappoints only because the film is so damn seductive. Although the motivation for every character in every scene appears to have been “look indifferent” every glimpse we have into their warped reality is delicious and totally enthralling. Cats are the world’s most dangerous creatures and planes are small toys in the sky. The children, now in their early twenties, speak their own lifeless language where external influences are encrypted by Father and Mother. A ‘sea’ is a leather armchair and “a cunt is a large lamp. Example: The ‘cunt’ switched off and the room got all dark”.
It just doesn’t seem to add up to anything which is a problem for a film that mixes in violence and incest among the dark humour. When you dabble in the black arts you need good reason. I’ve written about this similar problem of hollow metaphor in videogames in The Zombie Killin’ Business. In Dogtooth ‘zombies’ are small, yellow flowers.
So let’s have a think. What is it really about? Is it about the corruptibility of youth? Or perhaps how parents seem inscrutable as a kid? The perils of overprotective parents, dialled up for effect, maybe? Some commentary on films themselves what with the inclusion of the Rocky/Jaws dialogues? Why would you write, cast, film and release Dogtooth if only to unsettle the audience?
Meh. I’m tired from the intellectual heavy-lifting of looking under the sparse material for deeper meaning. If I keep going I’ll deplete what odd enjoyment remains from having watched such a strange, quiet film.