Film Junk Podcast Episode #307: Dogtooth

0:00 – Intro
4:05 – Headlines: Die Hard 5 Gets a Director, Shane Black May Write and Direct Iron Man 3, Ryan Gosling to Star in Logan’s Run Remake, Shark Night 3D to Become Untitled 3D Shark Thriller?
33:05 – Review: Dogtooth
1:11:45 – Trailer Trash: X-Men: First Class, Arthur, Bridesmaids
1:29:30 – Other Stuff We Watched: Uncle Buck, Weird Science, Sixteen Candles, Gates of Heaven, Dazed and Confused, Nothing But Trouble
1:54:50 – Junk Mail: Reed Raimi Remix, Kiss of Death, Azrael in The Dark Knight Rises, Film Junk Ads, Greg’s Recommended Classics and Police Procedurals, Judging Acting in Foreign Films, New Watch vs. Rewatch, Horror Remakes and Sequels, Name That Movie 1 and 2
2:26:20 – This Week’s DVD Releases
2:29:40 – Outro

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  • Goon

    I dont think Dogtooth is random, I think there’s a purpose behind most of what its doing….

    but I think of something like Daybreakers, where the world building is pretty superb, there’s a lot of ideas in there, and theres a plot, even if its kind of stupid or laughable or cliched. But I respect that they took their worldbuilding and ideas and wrapped it around something.

    Dogtooth never wraps these ideas around anything interesting, so what you’re left with is whether or not these ideas are entertaining or interesting for the full duration of a film. Since I don’t find the film funny or strongly satirical, since there’s no performances for me to dig, since I think the visual aesthetic is shit, and since on top of everything, the worldbuilding isn’t as interesting as similar fare I’ve seen, I have to ask myself: are the ideas in the film so profound, thoughtful or original that I can look past everything else I found lacking.

    And the answer is a resounding no. The interest wears off and I’m left with a hollow shell of bullshit, hence calling it out on pretention, because its execution in no way for me meets its ambition. When things arent so well explored or explained when you have this much time where nothing happens, things start seeming more random than they may be intended, and if you start seeing things as redudnant or boring, you stop caring, you tune out, and then you can leave the film not understanding things that occurred after you stopped caring, so I give Greg a pass, just as I can give the gang a pass on a lot of the Harry Potter stuff they didnt get.

    Simply put, when you have the time to explore something, and you don’t, its pretty easy to call it ‘stupid’. This is not Children of Men where the missing details of the world don’t matter, in this film I think a number of them do matter. If the Village could find time for motivation I don’t see why this couldn’t. The Village did it with the shot of the towns founders in an old photo all together in front of a counselling center. More than you get in Dogtooth. I suppose you may want to spin it that it the lack of explanation makes the father more of a scary monster, but I think thats cheap, considering the film is supposed to also be saying something about protection and parenting. Its having your cake and eating it too.

    Dogtooth is that “My Dinner With Andre” without the dinner for me. There’s no meat on the film’s skeleton.. The film is stripped, i can see it naked, and its ugly. I think the lack of detail is making it seem “interesting” and like Frank said, making people look at it not sure what they liked about it but being intrigued enough to give it a pass.

    It’s like the ending of Donnie Darko, where most people don’t really have a clue about what’s going on, or a lot of Lynch. or LOST. Having missing details leads people to speculate or assume there’s some brilliance they haven’t tapped into but must be there, or that the open endedness is the point itself and that is what makes it interesting. But the difference is those other examples have real and rich content, whereas for me, Dogtooth is rather empty, lazy, and the application of its concepts is clumsy, obvious, and even redundant.

    So in those terms I feel comfortable calling the film stupid.

  • If you don’t think that people are willfully keeping their children ignorant, overparenting, and home-schooling for religious beliefs isn’t widespread across the world, I guess you could call this movie irrelevent…I don’t see it that way, it does what a good ‘horror movie’ or ‘satire’ does. Take an aspect of society and inflate it out to the point of ridiculousness. (See Videodrome which apparently was a massively inflated scenario/response to CITY-TV showing softcore ‘baby blue’ porn flicks at 3am in Toronto)

    I think Dogtooth does this magnificently, and entertainingly. I expect to watch it several times, although I’ve only seen it once at this point

  • Goon

    And to Andrew, if we have to get into internal believability, here’s one example where it seems to fail for me:

    In the scope of the film alone, you see the parents have to give enough spur of the moment explanations of words, or deal with situations that would supposedly naturally arise, that its hard to believe they would have ever pulled off this deception for this long. It’s hard to believe they were able to keep these kids this dumb for this long.

    Likewise in the Truman Show so many mistakes keep happening in the first third of the film its hard to believe sometimes they kept that deception up for that long.

    But in the case of Truman Show or The Village, or Pleasantville, there’s enough of an internal struggle or breaking point in the films characters that could spark noticing the world around them is fake, whether its love of Truman’s midlife crisis and dissatisfaction with his life. In Dogtooth the characters are supposed to be so dumb and resigned and brainwashed that I just don’t buy the little action and push forward that actually DOES take place.

  • Goon

    “If you don’t think that people are willfully keeping their children ignorant, overparenting, and home-schooling for religious beliefs isn’t widespread across the world, I guess you could call this movie irrelevent”

    I’d argue that it’s irrelevant if it can’t say it any better than stuff that is already out there, and I don’t think it does that. Jesus Camp is a better horror film than this, and it doesnt need to inflate a single thing, because it actually happened.

  • Goon

    I keep going (shut up Goon, just shut up – signed, Goon)

    I guess I tend to reject satire that needs to push to extremes to try and make a point, perhaps there are exceptions, but I’m remembering the debate over Blindness we had, which also has a number of extremes to show its allegory, which I also disliked a lot of.

    I think its lazy and even condescending to have to do so in this manner, and for me the best satire says things in subtler ways that are still highlight the foolishness of the people doing them. Like the Simpsons example I gave above, or a lot of stuff on King of the Hill, both in Hank Hill, Hank’s dad, Khan, and I am expecting and hoping that Bob’s Burgers will be one of those shows too since it has some KOTH alumni there.

    I even think of Bob Roberts, my favorite political satire, which has some blunt elements in attacking the Republican, but also very subtle elements to pick on just how much of a pussy the Democrat candidate is. I think of Tim and Eric, which is both Zappa/Ween absurd in a lot of its concepts, but is often so subtle in its dissection on the presentation of television as a medium. Since they’re so good at both I find that show to be one of the most brilliant shows on television right now.

    This is the kind of satire that rally floats my boat. Dogtooth, not.

  • Well I don’t disagree with you, Goon, on the subject of Bob Roberts. LOVE THAT FILM.

  • Greg

    I didn’t like Dogtooth. Jesus. It wasn’t interesting to me in the least. I didn’t get a lot of it. Maybe it’s not obtuse…maybe the movie is just really stupid.

    Rube? Go fuck yourself.

  • Double_A

    Greg is awesome! Don’t mess with The Voice!

  • kyri

    Great points mike I Just want to add one more thing on your comment regarding the Sinatra song.

    Even if he does give different translation, it means nothing because first of all we do not know if the father even speaks English and furthermore it just amplifies the idea that they were so brainwashed that there was no way for them to challenge the dominant father figure, even if he was obviously wrong. Aren’t most of our leaders obviously full of shit? Do you see many people (especially women) who challenge them?

  • rjdelight

    Does anyone know what episode the “Sigourney’s Weaver” comment first appeared on?

  • I believe it was the Avatar episode.

  • projectgenesis

    Frank, I love Fausto and Renalda from Nothing but Trouble as well. My favorite line is when they are crawling from the sewer and Fausto goes “it smells like Sao Paulo”

  • Congrats to Jay on getting into MoMA. I knew you were a cocksucker, but I had no idea you were that talented!

  • Cal

    First off, congrats to Jay.

    Second: I couldn’t believe Frank didn’t like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Disappointed to hear that, Frank.

    Third: I don’t get all the Die Hard 4 hate. It was 80-whatever % on RT because it’s good. I agree the end is ridiculous and the jumping-onto-the-fighter-plane sequence is the lowest point of the series. The start though was great and I definitely don’t get the “superman” Bruce Willis vibe until maybe the last third or even quarter of the movie. Until then it definitely feels like a Die Hard movie, and kicks the crap out of Part 2 which was a piece of shit. The PG13 I’m sure was no choice of the director, and yeah it woulda been better if it was R, but aside from a few missing swears and squib shots (and the ridiculous fighter plane scene) it felt tonally right in line with the other movies.

  • TJ

    Great podcast as usual, guys!

    I had a bizarre coincidence listening to it the other night though…I’ve been listening to your podcast for a few months now, and working my way through the older episodes. Even though I’ve listened to about 3/4ths of them by now this week’s was the first one I heard that was missing Jay. Which was a bummer because I wanted to hear what he thought of Dogtooth. Guess I’ll have to wait for next week…

    Anyway, after listening to the new episode at work I picked an older episode at random for the drive home later that night, ep. #193, the Changeling review. Not only was Jay missing from that episode too, but it was also the debut of Frank on the show, where he talked at length about his love of…Nothing But Trouble (and got a ton of shit from it from the chatroom). Pretty weird coincidence, eh?

  • I am totally going to go to the beauty day premiere. Congrats Jay.

  • Steve Kasan

    Greg, what did you think about the Rock’s return?

    Also, a truly underrated John Hughes film, Dutch. F’N great!

  • ScottHK

    What did you guys think about Punch Drunk Love?

    That was an art film many people liked, but I didn’t understand or have fun watching at all.

    All the audible audiobook clips you play suck. You need some recommendations….. ‘born to run’ and ‘the big short’ both were good and had good narrators. a bit far away from movie related fodder though.

    Maybe you should ditch the sponsor and do advertising instead…it would be hilarious to hear Jay reading ads with his Squidward-like delivery.
    http://www.podtrac.com/Podcaster/podcaster-main.aspx

  • Bob Roberts, my favorite political satire
    Bob Roberts, my favorite political satire
    Bob Roberts, my favorite political satire
    Bob Roberts, my favorite political satire
    Bob Roberts, my favorite political satire
    Bob Roberts, my favorite political satire
    Bob Roberts, my favorite political satire

  • OK, lengthy post here:

    Dogtooth happens to be one of my favourite films of the year, but that said, I’ll agree with Greg in that the film is not for everyone.

    I’m not going to argue in a matter of taste. However, I’d like to offer my thoughts on what I feel are some of the more objective elements of the film, that if misinterpreted, might harm one’s appreciation of the film. I don’t mean any condescension. These are simply my attempts to elaborate on some notions that film address in a very subtle manner.

    THE VOCABULARY

    Frank in particular seemed to think there was an arbitrary nature to the misnomers provided by the parents. As I see it, the misnomers were actually calculated to help ensure that the children remain ignorant of specific things the parents didn’t wish them to be exposed to. So, at the beginning of the film we get “Sea”, “Motorway” and “Excursion” – all words that would suggest travelling beyond the confines of the home, something forbidden by the parents. The rationale here is the same one that underlies the parents’ wanting to establish the fiction that distant airplanes are actually models which, at any time, might fall into the garden. The parents don’t want the children to know that aircraft are a means of transportation, and that normal people not only occasionally venture beyond their gardens, but also actually visit distant countries and cultures.

    The fourth word they learn is “carbine” (“shotgun” in some translations). Presumably this word is forbidden because it represents violence, one of the “bad” influences the parents hope their children can avoid. (The irony, of course, is that stifling the children’s development, fostering sibling rivalry, and effectively imprisoning them causes the children to lash out violently at one another.)

    Later in the film we learn that “telephone” has been substituted for salt. Obviously the parents don’t want the children to know that a telephone is actually a device used to communicate with the outside world. This is why they keep the household’s only phone in a locked cabinet, why the children think their mother is talking to herself when she’s using the phone, and why the elder sister doesn’t know how to operate the phone when she tries.

    “Pussy/cunt” is a sexual word, again representing the “bad” influences. Seemingly the parents’ warped world view dictates that their daughters should remain ignorant of sexuality, but that it is healthy for their son to have a sexual outlet, hence them hiring Christina to attend to him sexually.

    The “zombie” moment again represents a “bad” influence – traditionally associated with violence/horror – that their children would never have been exposed to. Rather than even begin to attempt to explain the notion that a zombie is a re-animated corpse, and the cascade of further questions that that you bring, the mother, off the cuff, answers instead that they are flowers, something safe and familiar.

    “FLY ME TO THE MOON” LYRICS

    Frank also took issue with the father’s mistranslation of “Fly Me to the Moon”, I don’t feel this moment is as logically suspect as he believes. Notably, the father actually does repeat certain phrases when Sinatra repeats them in the song. When Sinatra initially repeats “In other words” the father translates this as “the spring is flooding” in both instances. Sinatra sings “In other words, hold my hand / In other words, darling kiss me” and the father translates this as “The spring is flooding my house, the spring is flooding my little heart.” Granted the father does not substitute the same Greek word for the same English word precisely throughout the song. However, the experience of watching Dogtooth can tell you that it’s difficult to pin down a consistent translation for unfamiliar foreign words. There were several times where the films subtitles (from a UK Blu-ray edition) translated what was audibly the same Greek word in slightly different ways. Add, on top of this, the fact that these children have been condition from birth to have the utmost and absolute respect for their parent’s teachings, and that they have never been formally educated, and I you can very credibly believe that they wouldn’t pick out what holes do exist in their father’s translation.

    THE DANCE ROUTINE

    As a commenter pointed out, the elder sister is re-enacting choreography from Flashdance. It isn’t meant to an empty attempt at humour – rather it’s meant to manifest one way in which the elder sister’s exposure to outside cultural influences had an irrepressible, and ultimately violent impact on her understanding of the constructs of the reality in which she’s been raised. That’s not to say it isn’t also funny – especially if you recognize it as Flashdance. If there is confusion here, it’s entirely understandable, as we see Christina give her two tapes, and the films on those tapes are elsewhere clearly meant to be Rocky and Jaws. This may be an oversight by the film makers, though my girlfriend suggested that one of the cassettes may have featured a trailer for Flashdance, which might account for how she picked up the routine.

    GREG’S QUESTIONS – IN BRIEF

    “Why is the family like this?”

    The children are robotic and infantilised, because, like dogs, they have been conditioned to achieve a very specific, very narrow world view. They have not only been denied a conventional upbringing, they have also been denied knowledge of the outside world. They have not experienced socialization in the manner of an ordinary human being. The parents have treated them like children for their entire lives, hence their childlike behaviour. In that regard, I, personally, thought the actors playing the children were very good.

    As to why the parents are like that – who can say? But, despite their skewed world views, they feel what they’re doing is right and clearly love their children, however misguidedly that might manifest itself.

    “What’s on the other side of the fence?”

    Generally – the outside world, representative of all the dangers and bad influences the parents hope their children can avoid. More specifically, the parents have also concocted an imaginary brother to use as a cautionary instructional tool. Presumably they have told their children that they once had another son, but that he misbehaved or was disobedient, and so was banished to the other side of the fence where he lives a life of hardship, isolation and deprivation.

    “Why don’t they like that cat? / Why did they bark like dogs?”

    The father tells his children that cats are dangerous, child-eating predators in order to further frighten the children into captivity and dependence. The more they continue to believe the outside world is filled with danger, the less they are inclined to want to leave the household. He specifically tells him that as long as they remain in their garden and household they will be safe. But, like every lie the parents tell they must reinforce it with an elaborately constructed fiction. It’s not enough to say “Cats are dangerous, stay in the garden”, he does the “logical”, “fatherly” thing, and teaches his children how to ward off the threat of the cat by barking like dogs.

    “Who was the security officer?”

    Christina was employed as a guard at the father’s factory. The father made an arrangement with her out of a bizarre (but not unfamiliar) understanding that a young boy needs an outlet for his sexual urges in order to remain healthy. He seemed to think that she was a suitable candidate, and that, as an employee, she was someone he could control. Evidently he miscalculated and was careless with the respect to the influences she would have on his children.

    “Why was the mom crying?”

    I took this as an indication of two things: 1) It demonstrated how passionately the parents believe in what they are doing. She genuinely wants to be a good mother to her children, even if though her notion of what makes a good mother appears twisted from a ordinary point of view. When the father criticizes her she feels guilty and is genuinely upset. 2) I think it also subtly demonstrates the stress involved in trying to maintain a fictional existence for three adult children. She’s constantly having to dictate their reality as they are experiencing it, and, over time, I imagine that sort of endeavour would be mentally fatiguing.

    “Why did the girl get in the trunk?”

    The girl got in the trunk because she desperately wanted to escape her situation, but her understanding of the world is that the only safe way to leave the confines of the garden is an automobile. This is one of her fundamental life notions. The father explains that the children can learn to drive – that is, leave the confines of their household – “only once they have lost their dog teeth” – something that the audience knows will never happen. The seriousness with which this father maintains the charade is demonstrated when he drives the car five feet beyond the front gate to collect the toy airplane. It also explains why his wife and children bark like dogs when he’s searching for the elder sister in front of the house – so they he isn’t attacked by the lurking dangers – like cats – that exist in the outside world.

    WHY IS THIS MOVIE BEING HAILED AS A MASTERPIECE?

    That’s clearly a subjective question, and again, I won’t fault anyone who doesn’t share this view, but Sean in paticular seemed genuinely curious as to what all the fuss was about. Briefly, to me, Dogtooth is brilliant because I feel it succeeds in building a remarkably credible, yet disturbingly skewed world that is fascinating both as a perverse curiosity and as a densely layered work of allegory. You can interpret it literally, as being about parenting, but I think it’s also concerned with larger themes – the degree to which socialization fundamentally shapes our world views, the degree to which biology interacts with socialization in determining who we are as human beings, the dangers of xenophobia and cultural isolation, and its (metaphorically) incestuous, intellectually deleterious effects, the hypocrisy that is often latent within dictatorial regimes, etc.

    Also, the parents and the world they have created for their children are, to me, some of the most original cinematic inventions I have experienced, bar none. The parents aren’t evil people – they mean well, but they are also powerfully misguided – at times very humorously so. Also, I went into this film absolutely cold, and the time I spent piecing together exactly what the hell was going on in this world, was, to me, legitimately fascinating. Sure there isn’t a great deal of plot to the film, but I was doing mental gymnastics just trying to establish the rules of the wider world in which this film exists, the rules of the household, and exactly what effects those rules were having on the people within that household. I found the later “shock” moments in the film – the incest, the violent tooth extraction – entirely justified. Also, ambiguous though the ending might be, I found entirely fulfilling. 4/4 for me.

  • After reading these comments, I also wanted to address the question of the parents ability to maintain their elaborate fictions in general. I think it’s important to point out that:

    1) Christina is quite possibly the only visitor the children have ever known.

    We know the father maintains the fiction that his wife is in a wheel chair specifically as a pretense to avoid outsiders wanting to visit their home.

    2) They have a television set, but it is almost certainly not connected to an aerial or cable signal. The TV’s only parentally-sanctioned uses within the household are to display home videos, and for the parent’s pornography.

    These are the reasons that I find it substantially plausible that the parents are able to maintain control of their children’s vocabulary. These children have spent virtually the entirety of their lives having without participating in social interaction, except with their parents.

    If the children don’t overhear their parents using a word, there is literally no other means for them to learn – apart from the books that their parents have allowed them to read (the medical book, for instance).

    Also, the reason that there are relatively few misnomers used in the film is that in the course of their day-to-day existence, within the confines of their household, there aren’t many words that the parents would need to “censor”. The vocabulary that the parents have chosen to distort is very consistently concerned either with communication and the outside world, or with sexuality and violence.

    The only “spur of the moment” definitions that we see presented are caused by Christina’s unattended presences in their home, and by them having left adult video cassette case on the television. Both of these are attributable to lapses in the parent’s judgement, but I don’t read the film as suggesting that these kinds of lapses have occurred regularly, throughout the children’s lives. If anything, I read the film as hinting that the parent’s ability to maintain their fiction is slowly waning – indeed, fatally so with respect to Christina exposing the elder daughter to the video tapes that help trigger her decisive moment of rebellion.

  • Xidor

    I think if Frank would have watched Weird Science in the 80’s, he would have had a higher opinion of the movie much like his nostalgia for Police Academy, Crocodile Dundee 2, ect…

  • Franck Lloyd

    Great to hear a podcast without the constant shifting of phlegm, saliva and mucus that listeners have to endure when Jay is around. Please, get that guy a cough button.

  • Ummm…why are you assuming that the constant shifting of phlegm, saliva and mucus is coming from me?

  • Ummm…why are you assuming that the constant shifting of phlegm, saliva and mucus is coming from me?

  • Khan Farrington, HMV Manager

    Hey gents,

    Finally saw this film last night. It was like a Cohen film on acid.

    Is it just me or did the father look like Reed Farrington when he had his glasses on ?

    Not your everyday film.