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Interview: Yorgos Lanthimos • Director

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The importance of thinking for yourself


- Born in 1973, Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos marks his third feature with Dogtooth, after My Best Friend (co-directed with Lakis Lazopoulos in 2000) and Kinetta (2005)

Interview: Yorgos  Lanthimos  • Director

Cineuropa: What is Dogtooth [+see also:
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interview: Yorgos Lanthimos
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Yorgos Lanthimos: The movie is about various concepts, like the future of the family, how families work, and whether that is going to change. It’s about how kids grow up, what Greek families are like and how they tend to keep children at home and keep them very dependent on their parents.

It’s also about how great an influence education has, and leaders of social groups in general – whether it be a family, or a much greater group, or even inside a personal relationship. How these things can shape a person’s way of thinking and make them believe this or that, without it necessarily meaning that either is true. And without the person ever knowing what’s really going on around them.

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Aggeliki Papoulia (actress): The story of the film goes something like this: Three children grow up in a house without ever having seen the outside world. So they’re raised in a very peculiar way.

The acting we see in the film, is somewhat peculiar as well. Was that the result of a peculiar process?
Christos Passalis (actor): The way we worked was not at all based on psychological analysis, or even logical analysis. What we basically tried to do was to remove the sorts of tricks that actors accumulate through their work – or not necessarily through work. We tried to remove these and react to the moment, so to speak.

Acknowledging some limitations, of course, given that the story demands we are ignorant of a certain part of the world, which is not the case in our real lives. That’s the only area where there was actually a role to act. But that’s it, other than that it was only based on reacting to each other. At least for me.

So your view that of a pessimist or an optimist?
Lanthimos: It’s that of a patriarchist! I’ve always wanted to say that. [Laughs] Well, look, there’s no definite way to look at it, at least according to my perception. Even while writing and shooting the script, I tried to have it be very open to a lot of things. So that every person would be able to go in with his own experiences and think about the film in his own way while watching it. And that’s why it’s quite an open movie, even up to the ending. So when someone’s watching the ending, especially the way this specific ending has been shot, it might evoke the most pessimistic resolution, or the most optimistic one. And it’s actually very interesting to look at what each person thinks happens at the end.

What’s important is to keep an open mind when watching movies in general, I feel. And even more so when watching this one. It’s important to not expect someone to come along and grab you by the arm and drag you to exactly where he wants you to be. [To tell you] what to feel, what to think, what exactly the message is in every moment, in every scene. You need to absorb the film in an interactive sort of way. Put your own personality into watching it, or thinking about it afterwards.

Where you pleased with the audience’s reactions in Cannes?
Papoulia: They were very positive, I think they liked it quite a lot.

Passalis: Judging from the official opening, which is the only screening experience I have, what was amazing was that their reactions were very lively. They were audible reactions and that’s always very nice.


international title: Dogtooth
original title: Kynodontas
country: Greece
sales agent: MK2 Films
year: 2009
directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos
screenplay: Efthymis Filippou, Yorgos Lanthimos
cast: Anna Kalaitzidou, Christos Stergioglou, Mary Tsoni, Michelle Valley, Aggeliki Papoulia, Hristos Passalis

main awards/selection

Cannes 2009 Un Certain Regard

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