Dogtooth ★★★★½

Dogtooth is disturbing. It creeps into your psyche and stays there for days. It plays like an absurdist comedy at first but quickly shows its true colours. It is a gripping, compelling, shocking and extremely sad story of three nameless nearly adult children who live in a world created exclusively by their parents.

By "nameless" I don't mean that we are never told their names; I mean they have no names. The implications of this are enormous (take a minute to think about how different your life would be if you did not have a name). In their particular environment, one in which discipline is fairly extreme, the children must be completely attuned to the parents whereabouts and commands at all times because, well, they can't be called individually. Hearing the parents' voices is enough to warrant attention. This is reinforced by a timed game the mother plays with the children whereby they are blindfolded and must make their way to her from various parts of the yard as she reads out the ticking of the stopwatch.

In an essential scene whose importance could go unnoticed, one of the children has been exposed to the concept of having a name. She comes to understand what it means to be referred by it. One could argue that this is the pivotal point in the story, the beginnings of an identity for the young woman that leads to a quest for independence.

One could see the film as a political statement about subjugation, power and deceit. I saw it as focusing on the more fundamental issues of language and conceptualization and how they inform one another. When you see the film, keep this in mind at the end [you can keep reading -- there are no spoilers]. You will ask yourself why one of the girls didn't do a particular thing. The answer is not that she couldn't do it but that she didn't know she was supposed to do it. Therein lies the horror.

The children live in a very small world indeed, with limited language and concepts. Perhaps we all do.

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