(Greek title: "Kynodontas"; 2009)

by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Jon Stewart made an acute observation on The Daily Show the other day. He noted that the Greek fiscal crisis is threatening to cause the collapse of civilization - which they invented. That would be the ultimate irony - which they also invented.

Jon didn't mention that the when the Greeks were constructing the arts and sciences of the civilized world, they also invented both ridiculous plot twists and self-conscious artiness. At least I think they did. As far as I know, the cavemen only painted representational drawings, and left abstract expressionism to future generations. And I don't think Hammurabi slipped any obscure references into his famous Code. It was pretty straightforward stuff, like "Kill your brother's wife? You owe him four goats." OK, maybe the Israelites snuck some affectation in there with the Song of Songs, but in general the Athenians held a virtual monopoly on pretentiousness in the ancient world.

It is only fitting, therefore, that a Greek film named Dogtooth won the Un Certain Regard award at Cannes in 2009. If you never heard of that, it is a special award given to decidedly non-commercial films which are innovative and daring, in the hope that the publicity from the award and a small monetary grant will help them to achieve distribution. In plain language, they give an award to the most artsy-fartsy film they can find, the kind of film that makes David Lynch and Lars von Trier seem pedestrian. And if you think for a minute about the kinds of films that are NOT considered artsy-fartsy at Cannes, you'll realize that this film is pretty far out there. It reminds me of the homemade underground films that screened in the Village in the late 60s and early 70s.

Dogtooth is, in essence, a film which shows the logical extension of "home schooling," if that concept were to be carried ad absurdum. Two parents have, for reasons which are never explained, decided to imprison their children in a walled estate and to fill their heads with misinformation. The children are given improper definitions of words. When a plane flies overhead, the mother throws a toy plane in the garden and the father says "Look, it fell from the sky!" There are no phones, computers, televisions or radios, so the children have no concept of real life beyond their walls. The father even removes all of the brand names from their groceries before he brings them home. Although the children now appear to be healthy young adults in their late teens or early twenties, they are still as naive as pre-schoolers, and what little they know is wrong. The son and two daughters don't even have names.

The snake in this false Garden of Eden is sex. The father decides that his grown son needs to sate his manly urges, so he hires a local girl to provide some release. The introduction of an outsider to the sequestered estate ends up corrupting the children. The outsider introduces the sisters to lesbian sex, and gives one of them some video tapes of classic popular movies, like Rocky. The exposure to the outside world causes the elder sister to want freedom, and ...

And the rest is for you to find out.

Dogtooth is different from most avant-garde fare in that the author actually tried to think through the consequences of his premise. While the idea behind the film is absurd, and some of the parents' machinations create dialogue which would not be out of place in an Ionesco play, the film is perfectly logical if you accept the premise. The author tries to create an environment in which such a situation could really occur, and tries to determine what effects such an ambiance would have on the children. It's not easy to bring such a story into the real world. Most such stories take a science fiction turn somewhere along the way, but this one never does. The characters are bound to behave as people would in our world. The children could easily escape, for example, just by walking out of the exit where their father drives to work every day. The parents have to create reasons why they should not. Rather than taking the usual avant-garde approach of "you just have to accept it," this script genuinely tries to reason out how it could actually be done, and that air of plausibility makes everything much scarier because we realize that people might actually be doing this, or something very similar.

To prevent escape, the parents convince their children that the housecats seen beyond their gates are fearsome predators, and it is only safe to leave by automobile. Their older brother (who, we presume, is imaginary) tried to escape, and was torn to shreds by the cats. There's a hilarious scene where the father has to drive the car five feet outside the gates to retrieve a toy plane, because the only thing which keeps the children from running into the street is the notion that death awaits anyone who crosses their property line without a car. While the children observe him, the father must seem to be convinced of that fiction, even though he himself knows it to be false. Why are the children not allowed to leave by automobile? The parents create some pseudo-religious dogma that says a person may not leave until one canine tooth falls out, hence the film's name.

I'm not sure what the author was really trying to say with all of this, but I found it both entertaining and thought-provoking, and even quite funny from time to time. Think for a second about the expansion of home schooling in the United States. I wonder how many of those parents are doing a more subtle version of what we see in this film, telling their kids, for example, that modern science is false and that the world was created in 4004 B.C., exactly as described in Genesis. Think of the cloistered religious schools in the Moslem world where the only education consists of the Koran. It that very different from the idea that the tiny images of planes in the sky are actually toys a few feet in the air? The conclusion I drew from the film is that all ideas need to be countered and rebutted in a free market of thought, and that the only surviving ones will be those which are not easily contradicted. While the modern world may well be full of evil and deception, it is up to each of us to learn to use our own brains to discard the lies and subversions, even when the truth may be more painful than the pretty falsehoods our parents might prefer us to believe.

Although this film is amateurish in many ways, and will never receive much distribution because of all the nudity, including brief glimpses of erections,  I rather liked it - and I am not one to be patient with arty films.

Awaiting DVD INFO









89 Rotten Tomatoes  (% positive)







7.5 IMDB summary (of 10)








No distribution plans at the time this review was written. North American distro will be mini-arthouse at most.










There are several sex scenes and the entire cast got naked eventually, including

  • Michelle Valley as the mother
  • Mary Tsoni and Aggeliki Papoulia as the daughters
  • Anna Kalaitzidou as the outsider
  • Hristos Passalis as the son (including a brief erect frontal)
  • Christos Stergioglou as the father.







Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


It is a masterpiece in some ways, but those ways are very odd ones, indeed.