A bleak psychodrama about a family whose domestic life is so sheltered from the outside world that they might as well be aliens, Yorgos Lanthimos’ Dogtooth is simultaneously one of the year’s funniest and most terrifying movies.
“I like contradictions,” grins the Greek-born filmmaker, who brought the film to TIFF in 2009. “It’s good when things clash and crash together.”
The source of the horror and the comedy is one and the same: The adolescent protagonists have been conditioned to be oblivious to their own weirdness. For instance, they’re unaware that their grasp of language is completely tenuous — they’ve been told, for instance, that a “zombie” is a “little yellow flower.”
“Everyone has sat around and had these thoughts about words,” says Lanthimos. “You know, like why does this word mean one thing, and this one mean another. So I tried to make my film about that, in a very strange way.”
Very strange indeed. As the film progresses, the family’s rituals grow ever more bizarre and perverse. The film’s sexual explicitness is all the more shocking for the fact that the characters are painfully innocent about what they’ve been compelled to do.
“The actors really trusted me, which was important,” says Lanthimos. “What we did was very physical. We didn’t go into the minds of the characters: we tried to realize everything through movement.”
He’s equally hesitant to talk about his film’s meaning: many have read Dogtooth as a critique of totalitarian regimes.
“(Those things) were not what I had in mind” he says. “I like making movies that are open, so for me, it’s fun to read all these different interpretations.”