An analysis of a scene in Dogtooth, epiphanies, or hitting two birds with one stone.

So I am watching Dogtooth, the first film of the Greek new wave – and it is gorgeous to look at. The film Martha Marcy May Marlene which I would also highly recommend, has been compared to Dogtooth in a way that it has the same clinical approach to visuals/aesthetic.

What I want to share are my thoughts and epiphanies of sort that are further confirmed by this particular scene in the film I will illustrate. I’ve seen hundreds of films, I think maybe even over a thousand throughout my short life but only when I seriously began to study cinema I began to analyze each film I watch – mostly my preoccupation lies in studying the images and how they relate to the story. The visual language. I think it’s one of the best ways to learn these things, is through conscious analysis.

So this image comes on.dogtooth-shot1   Pretty right? Indeed, look at the beautiful lines and how they lead your eye to her standing. Wonderful. I love it… the shot is held there for a while so then I begin to think, what is she waiting for. It’s not a mystery once you see it’s a….

dogtooth-shot2

Because in the beginning it was established that she was riding in the car and you saw this same car again a few scenes prior and who was in it and so on and so forth…

At the point where she was walking over to get inside the car, a thought sprung up in my mind and it was.

What will be the next shot?

I thought, will the car just drive off in this same wide shot? My questions were answered.

It cuts to

dogtooth-shot3

A nicely composed shot that resembles a medium close up.

dogtooth-shot4

But why? It was answered immediately.

dogtooth-shot5

You see, the beginning of the film established this particular visual

dogtooth-opening

It reminds me of something I heard while compiling my next commentary featuring David Mamet. In it, he mentions how he saw the film Daybreak and the use of props in that film. How they were established in the film early on, then brought up again in the second act or so, and again at the end, reminding the audience of its importance to the story. Now I haven’t yet finished Dogtooth so I do not know whether it is a prop that comes into play in a much more important way rather than just being an element of a story (in this case being simply that she must not know where she is being taken to every time). But all of this is an insight of mine which I’ve come to see is something that has been employed in various other films. The idea of establishing something, then reminding an audience of its existence, calling to mind that it may be or is important to the story. Inception has done that with the whole totem thing.

Now how does this blindfold relate to visual language of cinema you might ask? And I answer, it’s all about the story and how every image, every shot must serve the purpose of the story. Treating each individual composition as a story in itself.

I came across an interesting quote by Pablo Picasso recently which I’ve included in the Advice section

Art is the elimination of the unnecessary

Think about these words and think about what I just analyzed in this scene, and then every time you watch a film, or go out and shoot a scene – remember this quote and look at how each shots of the given films are chosen and why, and think about how you will shoot, respectively.

If you look back at the first shot

dogtooth-shot1

Had there been no blindfold, how would you imagine the director or the DP would go about getting out of this scene? This could have remained for the scenes entire duration; the car arriving, her getting inside, and the car driving off. However let’s say, hypothetically even if there was no blindfold – you could have still had the same second shot of her getting inside the car

dogtooth-shot3

and have it simply drive off. However what would the reason be besides just showing her getting inside the car? Do you see what I’m getting at? There must be a purpose on some level, and that purpose in this scenario could simply be her expression on her face – sadness? joy? indifference? You may have had to compose this shot a little bit tighter to show that expression, or you could have cut to a close up after this shot. Though how would her expression play a part in the film’s story? Every shot has to be considered for the sake of what you’re trying to tell the audience by using it.

Everything I’ve written here is confirmed in the section Finding the frame of the book I shared here recently, Filmmaker’s Eye

Here is the section…

finding.the.frame1

finding.the.frame2

These are my own epiphanies and realizations, and confirmations of the truth of the cinematic language. I am beginning to see it all myself and I gotta say it is wonderful to be able to notice these things consciously, the experience of watching a film also becomes quite more fulfilling.


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8 thoughts on “An analysis of a scene in Dogtooth, epiphanies, or hitting two birds with one stone.

  1. Pingback: David Mamet on film + reading material and some info | filmschoolthrucommentaries

  2. I have Filmmaker’s eye too, such a great book !
    I love watching random short films on the internet, you learn a lot analyzing what makes them good or, -unfortunately- for the most part, bad.
    Here is one of my own epiphanies :
    A few weeks ago I was watching random fiction work on TV, and trying to understand why some were bad and what made other good. After a few days, I was muting the sound and I nailed it : when the film is good, you can understand the story without sound, just looking at the pictures. The more you understand watching the pictures, the better the film is. I know it sounds obvious, and every filmmaker knows it more or less, but I don’t think a lot of people understand how much sense can a few well done shots have. Sensations, Emotions, Story, Mood, Mythology. All in one good shot. You could write 100 lines about a shot like that and still have a lot to tell.
    On the other hand I muted the movie Avatar, and to my surprise the pictures didn’t ‘show’ a lot of sense.(I’d say it rated 3 on my SESMM scale). I’m not telling it’s a bad movie, but obviously it’s visually very simple, maybe Cameron had to make it this way because of some limitations with the virtual camera system he used.
    I’d be interested to have your thoughts on the subject !

    • I’m a big proponent of analysis in films, scenes, shorts – because it teaches you to LOOK at a movie, and study the language of cinema. I’m reading this book currently by Lev Kuleshov – there’s a passage in there where he talks about editing and shot lengths – things that essentially make up a film. Well he says that every shot that comes BEFORE or AFTER must in essence, ‘respect’ it, and make sense sequentially. I will post my notes on that as I’m finished reading, the book is short – only 55 pages, but packed with good info. Basically there really are RULES that a filmmaker must follow in order to be coherent visually in how he tells a story. He explains it in depth and I’m really summarizing it, but I will translate that passage and post it in the notes or maybe even a future editorial.

      The best way to learn a movie I think, is by watching – and consciously watching – muting sound is such a great way because you only concentrate on the VISUAL sense of the film and not anything else – you’re zoned in 100%. I watched this video today on TED where a psychologist mentioned how a brain can only handle a certain amount of “bits” – that is why you can only concentrate on TWO people talking at the time and nothing else – well, if you’re doing your best to understand a film you’re concentrating on TWO things – VISUAL and SOUND – you mute on of them and your concentration is shot up to a full 100% on only one aspect. And it’s a great way to learn. That’s why the SOUND commentary for Se7en has all the dialogue MUTED, and contains only the sound design, because it forces the viewer to TRULY listen to the ambiances created for the film.

      I also find that when I read all these books and I’m forced to concentrate on all the different concepts that are being talked about – I LEARN much better. For instance, I read this section about Perspective (Depth of the frame pretty much) in Kuleshov’s book and immediately once I saw the examples and read about them – I watched everything with a brand new set of eyes and began to notice perspective and depth in every frame of a film.

      • “watching everything with a new set of eyes” : I dig this feeling, when a simple principle you’ve learned makes you discover a whole new ‘dimension’. I feel like an explorer uncovering an uncharted land 🙂

      • And your last post about Lev Kuleshov was inspiring, I’m definitely looking forward to reading his views on editing, if you still plan to put it out here.

      • I’ll post it when I’m done with the book. Right now it’s getting dense with theory and technical talk.

        That’s how I feel too! when I grasp a new concept or idea… it feels like you’re learning at an exponential pace – information overload, yet it all makes sense instead of making you feel overwhelmed

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