Kynodontas (Dogtooth) (2009) & Symbolism in films

dogtoothYesterday I saw Kynodontas (Dogtooth). Before writing down my opinion about the film itself, there are a couple of thoughts that need to be mentioned regarding the symbolic nature of films.

A film using symbolism to convey a message to the spectator, allow me to say, is like a key and a lock. The spectator may or may not understand the symbolism. He/she may or may not have the key to the lock.

If the message is understood, if the key fits the lock, then a sense of satisfaction fills the spectator by the mere fact that he did understand it and in case he/she does agree with the message the satisfaction is bigger. Even if he/she does not agree, the message has a better impact than from an equivalent non-symbolic film.

If however the message is not understood, then the spectator feels like an imbecile and a number of questions arise: am I a fool? Why did I throw my money away? What on Earth am I watching now? Why am I wasting my time? You know, stuff like this! I’ve been in that position too many times. For example: it is 100% certain that if I watched “The Andalusian dog”  by myself (see my previous post), I wouldn’t have understood a thing and for sure, if would have stopped the movie at the 1st minute if I was watching it at home!

Of course, the more one sees symbolic films, the more is understood. There is a certain beauty in it. But on the other hand, do we always have the time or are we always in the mood to watch them? That’s for each one of us to decide. I do admit, there are times (quite a lot actually!) I like to see a movie just to be carried away by the plot, the action etc. There is a proper time for everything…

So, Kynodontas: it is a symbolic film that its plot has no meaning at first. Scenes appear to be unrealistic. There is not an initial understanding on which to build a second or upper level of thinking. Either one understands what is going on, or not. The key-and-the-lock concept described above.

Is it meaningful for me to describe here something that you may read everywhere else? No. Also, if you want to see the movie, it would be inappropriate for me to outline my point of view for the symbolism (I thought) I understood. But on the other hand, you may want to read it, after seeing the movie. So, below, is the text that appears only after you select it! You may agree or disagree, that’s why we are different! Movies like this are “food for thought” as they say :). This trick I took from stixakias: really brilliant!

An isolated house is like our society. The father is the ruler and he calls the shots. The mother, the female element in the society, next to the people who have the authority, is more sensitive but does not oppose the father. She plays the game along the guidelines he sets.

Children are prohibited to have communication with the outside world. Information is power after all. So, even words that they might hear and could make them deviate from the predetermined way of thinking are given a different meaning. In 1984, words were eliminated from the dictionary. Here they have a totally different meaning. A more effective approach! The kids have every day a number of contests, which are outside of any logic. Their very nature (as in the scene/game with the hot water in the tub) as well as the rewards (the elder son decides for the type of the entertainment: we will watch video!) are meaningless. Well, what do we do with our children? We learn them in to be antagonistic between them since the time they go to the kinder garden! They do get their silly awards to learn operate in that framework. As they grow, the framework is reinforced, in primary school, high school, the university to obtain the final goal.Very few will question that framework when released in the market!

Christinna, is the only person coming from the prohibited world in the house. The father brings her home every week. He is asking her questions just to appear to be polite. He does not hear the answers. He does not need to: authority needs only to rule, not to care. Christinna represents the erotic element, but with no love, just sex. The framework imposed does not allow for love.  It uses sex as means of exchange. The kids of the family do not even understand the concept of pleasure, apart may be from the elder son. Even he, denies to provides pleasure to Christinna, thinking only of himself.

There is a male child that escaped the house isolation in the past, that questioned the authority of the father. This is a problem that the father and mother wait to deal with. When a cat appears, the kids are terrified: they have never seen such a creature before. Even innocent things create fear: it is the fear of the unknown. The elder son, braver than them all, kills it! Father and mother grab the opportunity, once more, to indicated the horrible fate awaiting any kid that may want to leave the house, the system: death is certain!

Christinna, plays a catalytic role in the course of things: attempting to get what the elder son does not provide to her, interacts with a daughter of the family. During that interaction she ends up being blackmailed to provide movies from the outside world to the daughter. The scenes the daughter sees in the movies (Rocky and Jaws), really throw her off-balance, a behavior noticed immediately by the father. He severely punishes his daughter and almost kills Christinna: no one is allowed to provide outside information to the system that may damage its delicate balance.

However, the seed has been planted: the daughter changes its name: the information she got changed her identity and is no longer satisfied with what she’s got.  She wants to go away from the house. How? All kids have been taught that they are ready to leave the house only if a dogtooth drops off! So, when she really has made up her mind, she hits herself with heavy object to make it drop. She goes in the trunk of the car of her father to hide, expecting to find the desired freedom. Alas, the trunks are not made to open from the inside, so she is trapped in there, just a breath away from the factory the father owns, just a breath away from the means to earn her living: whoever is outside the framework, has no chance of survival!

There are of course many more clues in that film that the ones mentioned above. It is certainly one of those films one may need to see more than once, probably playing back some scenes to understand their meaning. But this is a start 🙂

My rating? Well, expectancy in probability theory is a good measure for some cases. Suppose you roll a dice. If the outcome is odds, you gain 8 Euros. If the outcome is even, you gain nothing. If the dice is fair, the probability is 0.5 for either outcome. The expected earnings are 0.5 * 8 + 0.5 * 0 = 4. If it were Math, it would make sense. Now, it does not!