While I would consider the actions here perverse and awkward, I wouldn't call them "absurd" or filtered through a character's distorted perception (though they may be a distorted in an allegorical way). I think this film can be considered realistic as the behaviors are logical and thoroughly explained if you take the premise: children raised in a world where they are constantly competing against one another for even the smallest of emotional rewards. Making their every moment a game and perfection the goal is what eventually leads to the acts of bizarre sex and self mutilation, not the infiltration of outside ideas as the father was lead to believe. The viewer may expect this as well since the "headband incident" appears to start the ball rolling, but really the headband could only be introduced through one of their games and any other way of having this exchange would have seemed absurd.Dogtooth could be read as a superlative example of absurdist cinema, or possibly something entirely the reverse – a clinically, unsparingly intimate piece of psychological realism.
What the father didn't realize (and I think the film showed his confusion within one of last shots where he just gazes out into the darkness) was that by setting up these rules he was changing the way the family unit essentially operates from an ideal love / nurture relationship to that of compete / control. The subservient actions create the pecking order, like pets licking their master when they want attention. The older sister being chosen for sex by a competing younger brother, but why did he choose her? Because in their compete / control world sex has already been introduced as a form of domination and while she had continually dominated him, this was his chance to get over on her in a big way. The Bruce Lee quoting moment that follows this scene is not the daughter seeking escape into the outside world, but merely using it to voice what she already knows, that the sex was a competition (that she lost) and an act of violence against her (what does it matter to them about incest?)
I agree with this and think that the film is an attack on parochial value systems (who would argue?) The "essential strangeness" contrasted with percieved "normality" is important as it paints the family as having a naive morality in the beginning which becomes more and more horribly wrong as the film progresses. I'm not sure if this film should be read as a larger political allegory the way The Village is or something more intimate like the Haneke examples Bradshaw gives a few times. Anyway, this probably sounds like a bunch of bullshit but I just wanted to get the ball rolling.Peter Bradshaw wrote:It is a film about the essential strangeness of something society insists is the benchmark of normality: the family, a walled city state with its own autocratic rule and untellable secrets.