Author(s)Brinkema, Eugenie Alexandra
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I. Variation A “Zombie” is a small yellow flower (such as you might find in a lovely, peaceful garden); the “Sea” is a leather armchair (wooden-armed, like the one in the living room—for example: “Don’t stand on your feet. Sit on the sea [thalassa] to have a quiet chat with me”); a “Phone” is a salt-shaker you will politely ask to have passed at the table. Plus, a “Motorway” is a strong wind; an “Excursion,” resistant flooring material; and “Carbine,” a beautiful white white bird. A “Cunt” (mouni) is a large overhead lamp. Not, however, because the female intercrural foramen, what 18th century writers referred to as “the indecent monosyllable,” is unthinkable or unnameable—to the contrary, a “Keyboard,” after all, is a cunt. So go the tormented and tormenting language variations that constitute one of the most striking aspects of Yorgos Lanthimos’ 2010 Kynodontas (Dogtooth). The film is either a careful study of the insularity and paternalism of the contemporary Greek family and nation in its focus on a household of five in which the adult children are limited to the boundaries of their house and yard, as they have been since childhood, while the minutiae of their lives, from the manner in which they will dance to how long to rinse with stinging mouthwash, is governed by the arbitrary and absolute control of their parents; Or, it is a drama about the devastating effects of the repression of sexuality in the bourgeois family, one undone by the figure of an outsider brought in to satisfy the son’s desires but who ends up, like some Pasolinian messenger of doom, fucking and ruining the daughters as well; Or, in examining the limits of perception, it is a cinematic articulation of Wittgenstein’s famous pronouncement in the Tractatus that “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world” (5.6)—indeed, for example, in making up a “game of endurance,” with finely-tuned rules, order, and protocol for submerging fingers in the hottest water, the adult children in the film are unable to create a name for this game, and thus unable to realize it at the conclusion of the opening scene; Or, it is a retelling of the history of national cinemas wherein contraband VHS copies of Rocky 4 and Jaws, which ultimately upend the eldest daughter’s world, suggest that post-Classical Hollywood is no longer suited to account for this world, now better represented by Lanthimos as a figure of New Greek Cinema; Or, it is a wildly humorous satire of discourses of good intentions towards children; Or, it is about, rather, or, perhaps it is about, for example,—repeat ad libitum.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Humanities. Literature Section
Brinkema, Eugenie. "e.g., Dogtooth." World Picture 7:Autumn (2012). © World Picture 2012.
Final published version