I had also made a recording of the interview for Cine-Fils’ series of thematised video interviews with filmmakers, which was published today. Our theme was ‘Family’ and you can watch the video on the Cine-Fils website.
Unfortunately, this time there is no accompanying essay. However, here are two excerpts from Mark Fisher’s excellent analysis of the role of the family in Dogtooth that elaborate nicely on what Lanthimos himself says in our interview:
“ “It’s very striking to see that, as the century draws to a close,” Alain Badiou writes in The Century (Polity, 2007), “the family has once more become a consensual and practically unassailable value. The young love the family, in which, moreover, they now dwell until later and later. The German Green Party … at one time contemplated calling itself the ‘party of the family’. Even homosexuals … nowadays demand insertion within the framework of the family, inheritance and ‘citizenship’” (66). It is possible, despite all the parental cruelty, to read Dogtooth as a satire on the sociological tendency of the young to “dwell within the family until later and later.” But the significance of the film, particularly in the decade of Fritzl, is to highlight what Badiou calls the “pathogenic” qualities of the family. For Badiou, the consolidation of the family has been part of a massive restoration of power and authority; instead of debating alternatives to the family as revolutionaries did during the radical moments of the twentieth century, the family has once again assumed a totally dominant ideological position, a position that the actual collapse of the nuclear family in western societies and the challenges to heterosexual normativity have done little to upset. “The overwhelming majority of child murders are carried out, not by sleazy unmarried paedophiles,” Badiou reminds us, “but by parents, especially mothers. And the overwhelming majority of sexual abuse is incestuous, in this instance courtesy of fathers or stepfathers. But about this, seal your lips! Murderous mothers and incestuous fathers, who are infinitely more widespread than paedophile killers, are an unsettling intrusion into the idyllic portrait of the family, which depicts the delightful relationship between our citizen parents and their angelic offspring” (76).
What disturbed some about Natascha Kampusch was her moral conservatism; soon after her release, she spoke of the benefits of being kept hostage—it meant, she said, that she could not smoke or fall into bad company. “I hope your kids have bad influences and develop bad personalities,” the father spits at Christina, just after he has savagely beaten her. If you stay inside, you are protected is the slogan of social conservatism, and it is as if Lanthimos is demonstrating what the ideal conditions for such conservatism would actually need to be. The outside must be totally pathologized: the children have to become literally xenophobic, terrified of everything that lies beyond the limits of their “protected” enclave. Dogtooth’s study of the pathogenic family is also, then, a study of the psychology of captivity.”
- Fisher, Mark. 2011. ‘Dogtooth: the Family Syndrome’, Film Quarterly, vol. 64, No. 4, pp. 22-27