The dangers of parenthood can be comic (Three Men and a Baby) or horrific (The Omen), but are rarely both. Dogtooth is an uncomfortable film to which because it shows how a family can be twisted out of shape and yet weirdly still function. This is not so much a nuclear family as a dirty bomb family. Mum and Dad don't just set the rules, they invent them as they go along, creating wonderful and frightening fantasies, a biblical and lost brother behind the fence, airplanes that can fall from the skies and monstrous cats which eat human flesh. Of course, the validity of their fantasies is only possible when all other fantasy and reality if blocked out. Television is there exclusively for family videos, the Frank Sinatra music is said to be grandfather's and all wrapping and packaging is removed from products before it comes in the house. Mum and Dad both enjoy freewheeling when it comes to their bullshit, dad portraying himself as a hunter gatherer, mum happily declaring that she's pregnant with twins and a dog and she'll have them whenever she pleases. The children themselves are now adults, although their behavior is still petulant and infantile, having known nothing of life except games and the large garden. One is left ultimately wondering why the family set off on this extraordinary experiment. Dad holds down his normal job, but obviously relishes coming home to his family. Mum seems happy surrounding by her adult children who won't ever leave her. There is abuse here, the children are lied to, and there are scars (although it is unclear whether the adults do this, or the children do it to each other), but there is also a toxic love and a despair with the wider world. In this the film is similar to Michael Haneke's Seventh Continent.
John Bleasdale is a writer. His work has appeared in The Guardian, The Independent, Il Manifesto, as well as CineVue.Com and theStudioExec.com. He has also written a number of plays, screenplays and novels.