Movies: Dogtooth * * * *
(18, limited release)
There are some films you admire hugely but are in absolutely no hurry to sit through again, and Dogtooth is definitely one of those.
Greek film-maker Yorgos Lanthimos has directed several features and short films, but nothing of the calibre of Dogtooth, a movie that's as startlingly original as it is unsettling.
On the outskirts of a Greek city, a middle-class family live in superficially idyllic splendour behind a high white wall. The father (Christos Stergioglou) runs a factory nearby, but he's the only one who leaves the house, and in fact it soon becomes clear from their bizarre behaviour that his three grown-up children never have.
Totally ignorant of the outside world, they think passing airplanes are toys, are terrified to step beyond the electric gate that lets their father in and out, and compete for his wavering approval in a series of idiotic games. At first it's just about possible to believe that the parents have raised their son and two daughters in this twisted manner in a misguided attempt to shield them from this cruel world. But when it emerges that they haven't even given them names, and that the parental punishments can be cruel, the father is revealed as a chillingly banal monomaniac whose petty dictatorship has caused untold harm.
In order to control the sexual urges that might cause the boy to wander, the father has brought a female security guard to the house to have sex with him. At first this works well, but any external influence is bound to upset the applecart, and the father's carefully constructed world begins to unravel.
Thoughtfully filmed and sometimes explosively shocking, Lanthimos's film looks and feels like a horrific social experiment and makes the veneer of civilisation seem a very delicate thing.