Digesting Dogtooth: An osmosis of sex, lies, and videotapes

The human digestive process is a complex series of organs and glands that break down food into smaller molecules to excrete as waste.

Essentially a long twisting tube that in the 4th grade you visualized to be as color-coded and neatly compartmentalized as the textbook diagrams led you to believe, only to come to the soft and slow realization that your insides aren't anything like shopping at Ikea, rather an ordered monochromatic blur of muddy squish, as you dissect a frog in 9th grade science lab, thinking to yourself, "That's what I look like?" in a quiet fluttering panic. When the bell rings, go to the cafeteria where eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich morphs into a sad existential experience, its ingredients too reminiscent of the insides of that frog and the one-two-three routine of the digestive process simultaneously. Lose your appetite.

Such is the Greek film Dogtooth. On the surface: serene, pastel, manageable. Underneath: distressed, muddy, cracked-up-confused (like that creepy vase Grandma insists on keeping even though it's seriously 2 chipped 2 quit).
The mouth: Food is partly broken down by chewing and the chemical action of salivary enzymes.Start by feasting on the cinematography. Not exactly hearty comfort food cinematography, more like multigrain Cheerios floating in a bowl of soymilk cinematography. However bleak, it's clean, stark, refreshing. Grasp from the get-go its symbolic nature of protective parenting sterilization and teenage sexual malaise as conditioned by every Todd Solondz, Michael Haneke, or family home video you've ever seen. Bask in it voluntarily anyway, like suntanning without sunscreen just because it's too plainly gorgeous not to.

The esophagus: A long tube that runs from mouth to stomach using rhythmic, wave-like muscles (peristalsis) to force food into the stomach, a muscle movement that gives us the ability to eat and drink even when upside-down.

~4 minutes in, the dad brings home a female security guard from his workplace to allay the erotic urges of his teenaged son. The sex is about as mechanical, awkward, and clinical as having your dad score you chicks for sex can be.

There's full frontal nudity (equal parts female and male) and this alone indicates it's "that kind of movie" -- a commentary movie; a conversation-starter movie. Swallow hard: this is just the opening scene, and you've already had a taste. Right-side up or not, uncomfortable things are gonna go down real quick.

The stomach: A large sac-like organ that churns out food, bathes it in very strong gastric acid, food stews in something called chyme and is partly digested.

The middle portion of Dogtooth is prime with sporadic moments of violence one after the other. So absurd and non-sensationalized you chuckle out of sheer nervousness -- a completely organic reaction your body employs -- because everything is so systematic you're simply not in control, such is this movie.

The brother slices a cat with a gardening shear, the sister slices her brother with a kitchen knife. The father beats his daughter over the head with VHS tapes of Rocky and Jaws, the father beats the security guard cum house sex maid over the head with an actual VHS. Rough, rough.

It's the perfect pacing of deadpan, deadpan, deadpan, deadpan, dead-CLIPPER!-HAMMER!-KNIFE!-pan.

One by one let all these scenes collect in the pit of your stomach, until...

The small intestine: Food enters the duodenum, the first part of the small intestine, then enters the jejunum, and then the ileum, where bile, pancreatic enzymes breakdown more food.

A duodenum? Jejunum-who? Ileum, huh? None of this makes sense...

...but by this point, words and science lose their meaning and the only means of expression is to "Do the Dogtooth" dance, baby, dance!

The large intestine: Some water and electrolytes, like sodium, are removed from the food where micro-bacteria help in the cleansing process as food travels upward, transversely, and descend to the other side of the body.

The climax of the film. A transcendent moment where a single visceral action repeats itself into a hopeful gummy mush.

If you don't want to see it here (in HD!), then just imagine scraping your tooth on a brick over and over and over again. Got it? Now take that image in your brain and SMASH IT WITH A HANDWEIGHT.

The rectum and anus: Where solid waste is stored and then excreted.

Dogtooth winds down, trickling into an ambiguous ending. The screen flashes white. Feel like that white screen. Blank. Bleak. Dissected. Dead. Feel like shit.


neilometer said...


Anonymous said...

Wow, you're amazing, it's not that I often read something like that. Out of words. amazing.

Post a Comment