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Revisiting ‘Dogtooth’: A Disturbingly Powerful Exploration of Patriarchy and Societal Manipulation

Revisiting ‘Dogtooth’: A Disturbingly Powerful Exploration of Patriarchy and Societal Manipulation

  • The 2009 Greek “absurdist psychological drama film” directed by Yorgos Lanthimos transcends traditional labels, existing as a work of arthouse brilliance, a psychological thriller, and a potent political satire all at once.

Dogtooth is an exceptionally unique, darkly twisted, and richly provocative cinematic experience that defies traditional storytelling conventions. Directed by the visionary Yorgos Lanthimos, this film envelops viewers in an atmosphere that is simultaneously bizarre and sinister. 

The sheer uniqueness of “Dogtooth” sets it apart from other films, making it a must-watch for those seeking something truly different yet socially powerful. With its serious and bizarre tone, it emerges as a powerful satire that boldly critiques a range of societal issues. The film fearlessly delves into the detrimental effects of homeschooling, exposing the dark consequences of isolating children from the outside world. “Dogtooth” confronts patriarchy and dives deep into the patriarchal nature of language itself, unraveling the ways in which it can be used to control individuals in a family, in a religion, and in a society, revealing the ways in which it stifles individual freedom and expression.

Director Lanthimos seamlessly weaves these thought-provoking themes into the narrative, employing metaphors and crafting a melancholic atmosphere that lingers throughout the film. The story’s somber ambiance intensifies the impact of its societal commentary. Through unsettling scenes of incest, oppression, manipulation and moral confusion, Lanthimos makes it clear that this film is no easy watch – definitely not for the faint-hearted.

The film opens with a captivating scene, showcasing the eldest daughter positioned in front of a mirror, her back deliberately facing it. This visual metaphor effectively conveys her initial lack of awareness regarding her own individuality. As the story unfolds, a significant scene towards the conclusion portrays her forcefully shattering her dogtooth using an iron dumbbell, while maintaining direct eye contact with her reflection in the mirror. This powerful shot symbolizes her determined pursuit to claim and assert her individuality.

In the movie, the children remain nameless characters. After watching a film on a tape, the eldest daughter attempts to reenact scenes from it, aspiring to emulate the characters she admired. In doing so, she chooses to adopt the name “Bruce,” unaware that it’s traditionally a male name.

The symbolism of the dog and cat in “Dogtooth” adds another layer of dexterity to the narrative. Dogs, which can be trained and molded, represent the pliability of individuals under manipulation. In contrast, cats, known for their independent nature, are represented as the most dangerous aspects of human behavior. 

The final scene of the film is hauntingly ambiguous, portraying the uncertainty and disorientation one might face when venturing out of a controlled environment into an unfamiliar world. The protagonist’s lack of communication skills and flawed understanding of the outside world magnify the sense of isolation and confusion, leaving viewers with an unsettling and thought-provoking conclusion.

It is deemed worthwhile to risk even one’s life to break free from the predetermined life choices and the environment others have imposed since birth. The struggle to assert one’s individuality becomes paramount. Do you have the strength to undertake this battle, or will fear overwhelm you? If you discover your entire life has been built on falsehoods and manipulation, will you fight for your identity and independence?

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This film’s metaphors resonate strongly with those who have dared to challenge manipulative family dynamics, oppressive religious norms, and patriarchal rules. It transports them back to the uncertain days when they first attempted to break free from the suffocating and manipulative environment they were born into.

Attempting to categorize “Dogtooth” within a specific genre is a challenging task. It transcends traditional labels, existing as a work of arthouse brilliance, a psychological thriller, and a potent political satire all at once. Lanthimos skillfully blends these elements, crafting a horror-dream-like masterpiece that defies easy classification.


Lokesh Bag is a passionate writer, a movie critic, a relentless reader, and a sketch artist. He has a graduate degree in Agricultural Entomology. He is an Ambedkarite and has been creating meaningful conversations about caste, gender, and social issues. He has previously been published in The Quint and he often writes on various topics in tweet-chunks on Twitter for his fans. He believes in working towards a better tomorrow, one word at a time. Follow him on Twitter.

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