In order to appropriately digest the material in Dogtooth one must foster and ascertain a particular state of indulgent, preferably humored, appreciation for morbidity. The concept of open-mindedness certainly applies here; of without which one would most unwaveringly condemn any sort of value a film like this may hold.
At its core, Dogtooth is part dark comedy and part Freudian psychoanalysis. The former indicates the tone and the latter dictates how we are to perceive the events of the film and in what context are we to evaluate them.
Greek auteur Giorgos Lanthimos’ film has much to praise with intriguing and downright haunting vocal and aesthetic compounds similar to those found in Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke’s oeuvre. In comparison, both filmmakers (though I have only seen one from Lanthimos) rely heavily on interpretive studies and less on storytelling or narration. Metaphoric observation is immense in consideration to understanding Dogtooth’s societal merit as well as its artistic language. I particularly enjoyed the looming thread of instability, vaguely pronounced yet streamlined as if all the eccentricities of the characters were fastened to it, giving the film a looming sense of unassuming terror.
While I had nothing to detract from the film’s prose, I did indeed find it quite alarming when applied to Lanthimos’s lack of abrasive and unconvincing analysis. He has disguised his film with an artful production and fantastic performances yet only hint’s at elements of meaning through a somewhat basic and often infuriating pseudo-analysis of sexuality, social conduct and violence. We see these areas of speculation but are never able to evaluate them. In this regard there is a lesson to be learned by studying Haneke. His greatest achievement, The Seventh Continent, works by way of using interpretive analysis through its slow-burn, behavioral expression and systematic circulation. The problem with Dogtooth is that it never goes deep enough and simply flat-lines before we can discern anything. We are allowed, or should I say forced, to invade this home where some terrible form of narcosis has taken over the minds of these poor individuals, yet during our unfortunate stay we not only learn nothing about their condition, but find very little, if anything at all, to assimilate to any kind of necessary comparison. The stagnant air of desolation keeps us at bay from the [albeit humorous] atrocities instead of relating it to the audience. Lanthimos uses this vulgarity in a distinctly perverse method and seems to shed, intentionally, all empathy in favor of brute ridicule and scorn. This willingness to portray the victims as a part of some elaborate joke is as harsh and scheming of a method of fabrication as one would likely find necessary in the art of film save blatant manipulation or gimmick; i.e. Saw, Hostel (a level to which I don’t quite think Dogtooth has fallen).
With such a provocative concept I would liked to have seen more believability and substance, as well as sympathy and vindication, but instead we are stuck with a perception of society that is cryptic and ignorant of its own potential.