Dogtooth mentally conditions its children through meandering tricks. Before Lanthimos made a name for himself with western audiences, with the likes of 'The Lobster' and 'The Favourite', his first few films were pure Arthouse. With such a low budget, he was still able to explore his artistic freedom to conceptualise an original depiction on modern life. This includes good old-fashioned cunnilingus, incestuous shoulder licking and hitting children on the head repeatedly with video tapes. Oh yes, this is true Lanthimos. A husband and wife keep their children secluded in an idyllic house, preventing external influences from the outside world polluting their minds.
An often dark psychological drama on mental conditioning and the provocative influences of pop culture. How watching Hollywood films and owning materialistic accessories can taint an individual's mind and make them susceptible to modern normality. Lanthimos has created an alternate reality, with this family adhering to their own rules and conditions. Nouns are often substituted with other nouns to produce a surprising amount of laughs. For example, "I want to lick your keyboard" is interpreted as "I want to lick your *insert word for female sexual organ*". A "zombie" is a small yellow flower, and a "pussy" is a big light. Simple learned techniques that have been altered to insinuate the father's control over his children. And that is the primary theme in this film, control.
The father is perceived to be the trainer to his children, and often treats them like canines. A metaphorical scene, where the father asks for his dog back but is questioned if he wants "a friend or an animal?", acts as the conduit for the film's message. It is a visual representation of the "Pavlov's Dog" practice, and the small inclusion of external influences starts to manifest a rebellion within the family. Dancing the 'Flashdance' and recreating scenes from 'Rocky' represent the need for pop culture.
But of course, in true Lanthimos style, it's not an easy watch. His static wide shots and visual attentiveness enhances the awkward behaviour of his characters. Their stance, execution of dialogue and physical interactions with each other are hard to watch. The performances from the cast, particularly Stergioglou, were frequently unsettling. However, this also acts as a detriment to the film.
Lanthimos, despite his visual uniqueness, often leaves his characters meandering. The lack of narrative cohesion instead makes the story feel like a composition of random scenes, with little character development. Arguably the film acts as an insight to this reclusive family, but at only 97 minutes long it certainly feels a lot longer. Also, despite a few humorous moments, it's not as outrageously hilarious as it was made out to be. The black comedy is subtle, very subtle. Yet it seems Lanthimos just couldn't quite fully utilise the family's autocratic rule to its full visionary and comedic potential. As with all Arthouse productions, Dogtooth is a conversational piece. Ambiguous, open-ended and full of surrealism that will provide meaty discussions amongst peers. Also worth noting that hitting your jaw with a dumbbell is not a suitable way to knock out a tooth...