Aggeliki Papoulia (left) and Mary Tsoni sink their teeth into Oscar-nominated Dogtooth.
DOGTOOTH (Giorgos Lanthimos). 97 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (January 28) at the Royal. For movie times, theatres, and trailers see Movies. Rating: NNNN
The second film in the Royal's mini-festival of new Greek cinema, Giorgos Lanthimos's Dogtooth arrives with an improbable Oscar nomination for best foreign-language film. It doesn't have a chance of winning - it's just so damn weird - but it's amazing that the Academy would even consider something this bizarre and idiosyncratic for the honour.
The movie is set almost entirely in the remote home of a Greek family, where - for no articulated reason - a couple (Christos Stergioglou and Michele Valley) have decided to raise their three children in near-total ignorance of the outside world. Now in their late teens, the kids believe that house cats are flesh-eating monsters, airplanes are toys zooming just out of reach overhead and the words "sea" and "telephone" refer to a type of armchair and a salt shaker respectively.
It's not a perfect existence. Repressed rage has a way of bursting out - the eldest daughter (Aggeliki Papoulia) reacts to a squabble with her brother (Hristos Passalis) by slashing him with a butcher knife - and there's also the matter of the boy's sexual desires, which his father tries to quell by bringing in a willing security guard (Anna Kalaitzidou) to sleep with him. But when she starts asserting her power over the daughters - and trading videotapes of 1980s blockbusters for intimate services - she sows the seeds of the household's destruction.
Lanthimos presents all of this in a series of flat, visually monotonous tableaux. Any metaphor or theme is left for us to divine. It plays as a cautionary tale of helicopter parenting just as easily as a sarcastic response to M. Night Shyamalan's The Village.
I like the idea that it's an allegory for isolationism. Retreat from the world and you wind up raising monsters. Not the cheeriest subject for a movie, but somehow it works.