“Mama, can you pass me the phone?” asks the girl. Her mom quietly passes the salt shaker and they continue with their dinner as if this was routine procedure. You're the odd one out. This is when you start wondering if there is something wrong with the family sitting at the table. Delve deeper and you’ll realize that everything’s wrong with it.
This is a family whose functioning is determined by the twisted minds of the heads of the household. The oligarchs have reared their children in this house since birth. Their three subjects (now in their late teens) haven’t dared to step beyond the compound gate. The outside world (so they’ve been told) is populated with carnivorous cats (which they are trained to bark at) and its ground intends to consume anyone who sets foot on it. Their father drives out to work. They watch the gate slowly closing itself behind him. They will have their day, they believe. But they must wait until their dogtooth falls off. While they wait for that day to come, they let time pass by watching home-recorded movies, consuming anesthetics and positioning themselves correctly to catch overhead airplanes.
Enter Christina, a prostitute who pays regular visits to satisfy the son’s sexual needs. She is their dictionary, their media, their encyclopaedia; their only connection to the outside world. When the boy refuses to lick her ‘keyboard’, she lures his elder sister (with a piece of phosphorescent jewelry) into doing it. The opportunistic exchange continues to advance, ultimately letting the girl’s increasing demands blackmail Christina into giving her two violent films - a hazardous move on both accounts.
The parents are a suspicious duo. While the wife chooses the confines of her home all day, the man makes a living outside. An inquisitive colleague asks about the home situation and his wary eyes contemplate bringing back his dog from obedience training. They’re willing to go to any extent at keeping their children confined at the fort, deserted somewhere in the hills and enclosed by a 15feet high fence. Even the consumable commodities are stripped of their brand labels so that there are fewer questions to answer.
Director Yorgos Lanthimos lays out the details with a sharp eye making the premise feel hauntingly real. One minute you’re inside the world as a spectator and the next minute you question your own existence because this is a world that couldn’t exist. On other occasions, you’ll be torn between laughing and cringing. Backing Lanthimos’ up is Thimios Bakatakis’ prying cinematography that works by keeping the camera rooted and letting the heads of the characters just miss the cut successfully stimulating something akin to peering through a key hole, or a door crack.