Dogtooth/Kynodontas (2009)… a superlative example of absurdist cinema



My rating: 8

IMDB rating: 7.2

IMDB link:

Dearest reader,

You know how we would all like to shield our children from the harsh realities of the world? How we would like them to grow up in a world unstained by the exaggerated emphasis on violence of the 21st century? Well, this film explores exactly that and as you can imagine it is not as idyllic as it may seem…

 “Dogtooth could be read as a superlative example of absurdist cinema, or possibly something entirely the reverse – a clinically, unsparingly intimate piece of psychological realism”.– Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

If we then proceed by placing this film into the category of the absurdist cinema, it is easy to find some examples to support this: the cyclical dialogues, the absence of names for the characters and the displaced emphasis on time (for example the three younger people are considered ‘children’ and play with toys despite actually being young adults).

The cinematography is definitely worth mentioning in regard to this film. The scenes are all very clinical and the director approaches this icy outlook by showing some very Haneke-like (for more on Haneke check out my review of his movie Cache) violence scenes that contrast to the pristine whiteness.

There are a few things that this movie most definitely comments on. The first that I picked up on was that this intense whiteness, together with the idea of a family unscathed by the realities of the world, definitely speaks of the normative white nuclear family as portrayed by Hollywood (perhaps more intensely by 1950’s Hollywood).

The second thing that really stood out to me, was the emphasis on the patriarch. He rules the family without tolerating any questioning or any form of obedience (we’ll get back to obedience). He re-establishes this role again and again throughout this film, for example, by throwing the fish in the swimming pool and then catching them again, as an act of bravado, and then in that manner provides food for the family.

Sexual gratification of the patriarch and of the son, because of his maleness, not only again places emphasis on the all-inclusive control of the patriarch, but also comments on male-female issues within a family. While the son’s sexual gratification is provided to him from the outside and later by his own sister, it is recognised that he has a need for gratification, while the females’ need is never explored.

There are also clear borders in this film, as well as borders that are more easily crossable than we are use to. The physical border is the fence and the gate and they are not able to cross. The borders between relationships are much more fluid in this film. The relationship between Christina and the sisters easily flow into a relationship of sexual favours. The same applies to the sibling relationship, that also easily flows into a sexual relationship.

The last thing that I want to comment on is the issue of obedience in this film. As the patriarch, the father requires 100% obedience from his children. In the film, this is literally compared to the training of a dog, where the trainer clearly states that it is up to the trainer to show the dog how to behave. In other words, the father who has total control over his family must decide how he wants them to behave.

All in all, I find this a very interesting film that gets you thinking about family dynamics, patriarchy and obedience. Also, if you are a Michael Haneke fan, then this film is definitely for you…

Want to read more on Dogtooth? Try these…

The Guardian: Dogtooth

Roger Ebert: Dogtooth

A.V. Club: Dogtooth

Phill on Film: Dogtooth


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