Dogtooth drops you into the insular world of a Greek family with no warning, explanation, or exposition. It may take a bit of time to realize what you're watching -- everything is odd in an extreme way, with three grown children (two daughters and a son, played by Aggeliki Papoulia, Mary Tsoni, and Hristos Passalis) apparently living by rules and stories they seem to take as natural law, but, to us, are jarring and disconcerting.
Eventually you may realize that the parents (Christos Stergioglou and Michele Valley) have created these rules to prevent the children from ever leaving the grounds of their home, and are constantly fed misinformation about the way the world works. Only the father ever gets to leave the house to go to work, otherwise even the mother never ventures out, and we're given no clue as to why all this is happening. What we observe is morbidly fascinating and frankly graphic, both uncomfortably funny and starkly disturbing, from the father paying one allowed outsider to visit solely to satisfy the son's sexual needs, to the son's slaying of a strange creature that wandered in (a cat!).
The movie is successful because it's thought provoking on several levels. Not only is it a direct satire on the perils of over-protective parenting, its meaning can be easily extended to the idea of cult societies, ruled by those who would have its followers fear the sins of the outside world. Psychologically, the film shows how strongly and significantly our environments shape us, that, without exposure to alternative ideas, we can be taught to believe anything; and Dogtooth goes to great lengths to show that these children believe, with no thought of their falsehoods, things we would find to be grossly absurd.
Inevitably, by the film's end, the eldest daughter has been "corrupted" just enough by information leaking in that she finally attains a motivating level of curiosity about the outside world, thus suggesting how unnatural and doomed to failure the idea of enforcing conformity upon a people can be. Director Giorgos Lanthimos never breaks the fly-on-the-wall mode of the movie, making Dogtooth a kind of ingenious horror show you just can't take your eyes off of.
(Released by Kino International; not rated by MPAA.)
Review also posted at www.windowtothemovies.com.