For all the flack the Academy receives for consistently nominating safe, middlebrow films, occasionally it’ll make a decision that just knocks you flat. Sure, The King’s Speech took home the top prize this year, but in the foreign language category — usually packed with even more banal nominees than Best Picture — there was Greek film Dogtooth. Director Yorgos Lanthimos’ stunning tale of domestic deception is disturbing and funny and disturbingly funny, and its bold vision is riveting.
In a home that resembles a kind of tranquil domestic compound resides an unnamed family of five, overseen by a stern patriarch (Christos Stergioglou) and his meek wife (Michele Valley). They’ve created a kind of fantasy world for their three adult children (Aggeliki Papoulia, Mary Tsoni, Hristos Passalis) where words have alternate meanings (the “sea” is a leather armchair), planes fall from the sky and land in the yard as little toys and any contact with the world outside the home is unthinkable — at least as long as you retain your canine tooth.
Here, control is maintained by arbitrary confusion, and Lanthimos achieves an otherworldly quality with emotionally perverse performances and dreamlike photography by Thimios Bakatakis that often makes it feel as if we are witnessing something from an entirely different planet. Disturbances in the carefully constructed artificial framework (brought about by sex and movies mostly) act as shocks to the system, upsetting the delicate balance the father had created.
Dogtooth is one of the finest films of 2010, and its Oscar nomination has certainly widened its audience. Those expecting typical Oscar-nominated fare are in for their own shock to the system.
I’ve written more about the film in my review of its DVD here.
The Blu-ray Disc
Dogtooth is presented in 1080p high definition with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Kino originally released the film on DVD only, but no doubt encouraged by the film’s Oscar nomination, is now releasing a well-deserved Blu-ray. The disc represents a healthy step-up from the excellent DVD presentation, with more natural colors and the absence of any noticeable compression artifacts. The film’s color palette tends to be more desaturated than vivid, but blues (a poolside umbrella and the pool itself) and green (the abundance of foliage on the property) are certainly striking. The image looks more film-like on Blu-ray, with a wholly intact grain structure that is just fantastic. Like the DVD, the image features specks of print damage that pop up intermittently, but most are very minor.
Audio is presented in a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that faithfully immerses the viewer. The film is mostly very quiet, punctuated by moments of frenetic sound, but even during serene (superficially, at least) moments, a palpable sense of the surroundings is created by ambient effects in the rears. Dialogue does most of the work, and is crisply and cleanly presented.
The same extras from the DVD are available here: a short interview with Lanthimos, three deleted scenes, the theatrical trailer and a gallery of stills from the film.
The Bottom Line
Dogtooth deserves to be seen in high-def, and even if the Blu-ray is a little late to the game, it was worth the wait.