‘I hope your kids have bad influences and develop bad personalities,’ says the well-to-do dad of three suburban young adults as a putdown in the mysterious, bold ‘Dogtooth’, hinting at a unique approach to parenting of which Josef Fritzl would be proud. Director Giorgos Lanthimos gives us a middle-class Greek family, lorded over by a businessman father who keeps his three children within the walls of their smart home and teaches them the incorrect definitions of several new words each day (‘A motorway is a very strong wind’). These kids’ world is without outside interference: when their mother talks on the phone, they think she’s speaking to herself; when planes fly over, they think they’re toys. Perhaps the dad’s biggest mistake is to allow a security guard from work to enter their home and sexually satisfy his son. He doesn’t bargain on her trading gifts and ideas with his daughter for sexual favours. Nor does he pre-empt the danger of her lending his daughter videos of ‘Rocky’ and ‘Flashdance’.
With hints of Haneke’s ‘The Seventh Continent’, Ian McEwan’s ‘The Cement Garden’ and even ‘Lord of the Flies’, Lanthimos has crafted a stunningly provocative and at times witty play on the inspirations that make us who we are. All families live by their own rules, and this drama takes that idea to its perverse and shocking conclusion. Lanthimos films these calamities in a quiet, observational style, with calm colours, subtle camera movements and gentle edits, lending an air of normality to a world that couldn’t be less so. Special and troubling.