Monday, February 14, 2011

Oscar Nominee: Dogtooth

Directed by Giorgos Lanthimos
Released June 25, 2010

This year’s Oscar submission and nominee for Best Foreign Film from the country of Greece is easily the most captivating film of the year. This tale of three adult children who have been sheltered and lied to all their lives to think that the entire world accessible to them is contained in their family’s property boundaries is a unique, fascinating exploration of human behavior. Marvelously acted and even more diligently and carefully directed, “Dogtooth” is an astonishing portrait of a family way beyond dysfunctional that is consistently captivating from start to finish, and long after the film has ended.

Everything in the world that exists within “Dogtooth” is artificial, and therefore making the film feel organic and believable is a considerable challenge. Yet the film succeeds with flying colors, thanks mostly to the amazingly committed performances by all the cast members, including the rebellious elder daughter (Aggeliki Papoulia), the more submissive younger daughter (Mary Tsoni), the loyal son (Hristos Passalis), the subservient mother (Michele Valley), the commanding father (Christos Stergioglou), and the woman who has the misfortune of coming into their very closeted lives to provide the son with a sexual companion (Anna Kalaitzidou). There is no weak link in this ensemble, and these actors work hard to ensure that their relationships with their family members make sense given their unconventional existence.

This is a film where strong production values and a stunning script come together to form an extremely well-rounded product. Most of the scenes are rather long, proceeding at a tepid pace to fully flesh out the emotions, more often than not suppressed, of the personages involved. Stark art direction helps to create color codes for emotions and intensity of scenes. There’s one particularly memorable and haunting scene towards the end of the film where the eldest daughter demonstrates her own energy and yearning to be free through an intensely-choreographed dance sequence inspired by “Flashdance” set to a far slower, more melodic score played on the guitar by her brother. The film is full of similarly hypnotic, thought-provoking moments, making this one foreign entry that should not be missed.


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