Tuesday, December 21, 2010
The Film Club Reviews #8
I'd like to think that the stunned silence that greeted the ending of Yorgos Lanthimos' Dogtooth wasn't just shock at its unpredictable violence and sex scenes but also that people were struggling to respond to a troublingly original film, one determined to confound expectations. This seemingly surreal story about a couple who keep their grown-up children isolated from the world in a walled compound on the outskirts of a city, has the unarguable clarity of a parable and the matter-of-fact courage of its low-budget convictions. It's about repression, social and family conditioning, language, trust, corruption, sex, violence and ultimately rebellion. It's a tribute to its marvellous deadpan that it could easily be used to argue opposing positions; that the parents are repressive monsters or that the introduction of outsiders into the controlled environment disrupts the previously blissful existence of the 'children'. Or possibly both. The one thing that's unarguable is the film's belief in the maleability of human mind, that without any frame of reference we are capable of believing anything, as easily conditioned and trained as dogs. However, throughout the film there are moments when emotional outbursts, sexual desires and natural curiosity find ways to express themselves. Not let out in normal ways, they find different, less socially acceptable ways to escape. It's nature vrs nurture as some kind of social experiment then, hinting at the contradictions and failures of Communist regimes or the repressiveness of closed religious communities. In this sense it has a lot in common with Haneke's The White Ribbon. But it's a very different film, funnier, stranger, a twenty-first century Bunuelian fable, as sharp and enigmatic as a razor blade, as hard to get rid of as a stubborn tooth.