A modern Greek family consisting of heterosexual parents, two daughters and a son (no names are ever given) live in a large house with expansive gardens and a pool. And a high fence that keeps the mother and children locked in snuggly while the father goes to work.
The children are grown—the eldest girl and boy are certainly old enough to be through university. The other girl is in her late teens at the youngest. But their parents have explained that they’ll only be ready to leave home when their dogtooth falls out (their canine teeth).
The father (Christos Stergioglou) brings in someone for the ‘task’ of relieving his son (Christos Passalis) of his manly urges, an act that is performed with as much passion as someone being paid to handle a task.
No one must know where he lives with his odd little family, though, so the woman is blindfolded on the drive to and from the house. She’s paid quite well and doesn’t seem to mind. No harm, no foul.
The children are also fine with their reality—they invent masochistic little games to amuse themselves. Like seeing who can hold their finger under hot water the longest.
The children must behave, for when they do, they are rewarded with stickers. When they misbehave they are punished by being made to hold alcohol-based mouthwash in their mouths for extended periods.
When you control someone’s reality from birth you can tell them anything at all and they’ll believe it. The parents have told the children that planes in the sky are toys—they’re so tiny they look like toys, don’t they? And sometimes the planes fall to the ground and whichever child finds it gets to keep it. And woe betide anyone who takes a plane that belongs to another.
Out of fear of losing their children, the parents have kept any knowledge of the outside world from them. If one of them asks about a word that pertains to something outside of their realm, their parents make up a definition. When asked what a ‘pussy’ is, the elder daughter is informed it’s a keyboard.
The one character who has a name is Christina (Anna Kalaitzidou). She is the person who comes to the house to help the son with his urges. She asks him for cunnilingus and he doesn’t want to. No matter, she trades being licked for a headband the elder daughter (Angeliki Papoulia) likes. The family doesn’t talk about sex so she has no idea this may be odd and goes about getting the headband.
‘Licking’ parts of a person then becomes a valid form of payment. She has her younger sister (Mary Tsoni) lick her shoulder in order to gain possession of the headband. I found this strangely hot. ‘Lick my elbow and I’ll make you a sandwich.’
Christina tries to trade a second round of oral favours for hair gel on a later visit and it doesn’t go as well as the first time. The elder daughter wants something better—VHS tapes. She gets them, but they lead to the devolution of the entire structure of the household.
Dogtooth is wonderfully bizarre and at times hilarious. If Wes Anderson were Greek and had a much smaller budget this is what you’d get.
Joan watched it with me at the end of a long day and after some time she said: I’m waiting for this to start to make sense.
Me: I think it’s one of those films where this is it—this is just how this family is.
Joan: Maybe I’m too tired to brain this film right now.
After she’d got some rest she liked it, but it’s definitely not a straight-out-of-the-box, straight-forward film.
There is some shocking violence. Some of it you see coming, some you don’t—it’s shocking because it’s immediate and sort of out of nowhere. But it’s always brief. Just a making-a-point sort of punishment violence.
There is some very real erect penis being massaged happening at one point. As well as some incest, but it wasn’t really surprising with this family, I have to say. If that’s going to put you off then here’s your warning.
I really liked it. It was just weird. Just a little off-kilter. But it wasn’t strange just to be strange. It made sense within its oddness.
Walter said it was like the kids had been raised on language tapes where thirty percent of the words were wrong, which is accurate in that the parents were intentionally telling the kids inaccurate words, but the entire way they approached life was off.
The directing was great, the acting was top-notch. I highly recommend this one and would re-watch it. It’s not overtly kinky per se, but there’s masochism and incest? I’m not sure why it made it onto the Wikipedia page of BDSM on film, but that’s where I found it and I’m glad I did.