Sunday, April 24, 2011

DOGVILLE: A Case Study on the Human Self and Actions

The beautiful fugitive, Grace, arrives in the isolated township of Dogville on the run from a team of gangsters. With some encouragement from Tom, the self-appointed town spokesman, the little community agrees to hide her and in return, Grace agrees to work for them. However, when a search sets in, the people of Dogville demand a better deal in exchange for the risk of harboring poor Grace and she learns the hard way that in this town, goodness is relative. But Grace has a secret and it is a dangerous one. Dogville may regret it ever began to bare its teeth... (

I’ve been putting off writing on this movie for the past few weeks. There’s so much to talk about, but it’s hard to find something solid to hold onto. It is especially hard to do so without revealing any spoilers which I will attempt to keep unspoiled.

Part of what makes a lot of von Trier’s writing great (not only in Dogville but in other movies like Dear Wendy) is the ambiguity of the final epiphany. In the commentary for the film, von Trier talks about how he does not like to write from one singular perspective; there are no bad guys and good guys. The heroine might be murderous with redeeming qualities, or something similar. This makes it hard to find the over all “moral” of the story, which von Trier says is nonexistent. Like most of his work, Dogville acts as a sort of case study, examining the situations and the effects of certain events in certain circumstances. He’s stated before that “[his] films are about ideals that clash with the world. Every time it's a man in the lead, they have forgotten about the ideals. And everytime it's a woman in the lead, they take the ideals all the way.” This is important to remember while watching Dogville. Grace has a certain level of ethical ideals and she carries those through to the end of Dogville, as well as, to the end of it’s sequel, Manderlay. I’d say it’s equally important to remember also the idea of power, and what one might do when they have it at their disposal. Grace, by the end of the film, definitely has power, using it in a way that von Trier describes as meeting us on a lower human level while simultaneously revolting us as being wrong.

The first theme I’d like to look at that arises from this case study is human nature. From my most recent blog post on the philosophy of Ayn Rand, I showed her belief that human nature is of the selfish kind. I’m not going to dispute this, I think Rand is right on that front. It’d be pretty hard to prove otherwise considering the current state of the world on international, national, regional, and local levels. But one thing that this film shows is that despite Rand’s reasoning, selfishness, when manifested in actions, is not a good thing.

It’s hard to notice the townspeople ever acting on anything other than their own selfishness and pride. Philosopher and author Iris Murdoch considers this blinding. We see the world through a veil of our own cares and concerns, Murdoch would say, and the only way to be good is to view the world objectively by removing this veil. The townspeople, even when in support of Grace, always harbor something against her. Whether it’s a jealousy they feel towards her unmatched beauty, or fear of her unknown origins. Though, it is hard to say whether or not Grace ever looks beyond her veil, either.

The second theme I’d like to explore would be that of moral relativity. There are many different ways of defining this relativistic view of ethics, but the one I’d like to consider is “the truth or justification of moral judgments is not absolute, but relative to some group of persons.” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). I think this is total bullshit, frankly. I have a feeling von Trier agrees with me.

The question brought up in the film is whether or not we (the audience) would do the same as the townspeople (or grace, for that matter,) if we were put in their situation. A poor desolate town that barely has enough finances to get by and is so isolated that the only knowledge of the world outside comes from a radio that only plays music, faced with a stranger who is wanted by the police. The further question to be asked is not only if we would do what they did, but whether or not we would be right in doing it.

Grace is described as having high ethical standards for herself, but being merciful to all those knowing that they could never reach said standards (sounds arrogant, right?). She strives to better herself, but does not expect the same from others. This does hardly any good. I believe von Trier might be trying to tell us that if we know that we could not justify specific actions, others who do them probably can’t either. People might be put into a situation that is difficult, poverty is one of those situations, and they might do things that we consider wrong out of instinct to survive. Does that automatically make those actions correct? Not really. Though it is hard to condemn those who do such things as steal to eat; how can we blame someone for acting on natural instincts in situations beyond their control? (I think this leads into the bigger problem of what causes said situations and that, that’s the real problem which ought to be fixed. Though this is not examined in Dogville, so it must be saved for a different time.)

The third theme which arises from this is the idea of blame, punishment and rehabilitation, and humanitarianism in a deterministic world. For any readers who may not be familiar with determinism, I’ll try and sum up as best I can.

Determinism is the assumption (as well as presupposition of science) that the world is completely causal. Everything happens as an effect, which then will cause other effects. This is not to be confused with the idea of things being predetermined, or of things happening for a reason. There are causes for each event, but that does not mean there is a specific meaning behind it that makes it a reason. The major implication of this outlook is that there is no free will--we are set in causal paths.

This leads to the greater implication that if we are only acting on the illusion of choice, then can we really be blamed for our actions? If someone murders their neighbor, we may understand it to be wrong, but can we really blame them for said action? Even if we don’t blame them, per se, does that mean we shouldn’t punish them?

The film takes up the idea of dogs, which are capable of great things, but if you let them act on their own natural accord and disrupt something, you’re not going to let them do it and move on. There must be some type of discipline; training to bring them into better behaviour. Dogs, as an illustration, tend to work better than humans because they are closer to natural instinct behaviour and we don’t tend to think of them as creatures that make reasoned choices.

From a deterministic outlook, you do not necessarily punish one for their actions (since it was not necessarily their “choice”), you must rehabilitate them to deter them from wrong deeds. Rehabilitation acting as a cause to bring about the effect that is beneficial for society as a whole. Similarly, how if a dog bites your hand, you’d want to bring them away from their behaviour, not blame them because they should have known better. This brings about a very humanitarian way of dealing with criminals. Safety of society and rehabilitation rather than strict punishment.

Along the lines of blame, in a deterministic world there is also no room for praise. This is fulfilled in Dogville as well, as we definitely cannot see any reason to praise any of the acts that any one character fulfills, because they only follow from the circumstances. Similarly, should we necessarily blame them for the actions either? But there still must be some corrective rehabilitation? There must be a way to protect society, but how can you do that? Is there really a best method? Or have you fallen so far down this hole of unfortunate circumstances that there is no logical way out?

It seems that I have bitten off more than I can chew with this post. There’s still much more that can be talked about and looked into, but I will save those themes and ideas until after they’re more developed with another viewing of the film. In summation, I’d like to say that Dogville is one of my absolute favorite films. It’s stylistic choices work well to send you straight into the rich dialogue and complex themes that are being shown to you. I highly recommend it to anyone who finds any of the themes that I just covered interesting.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

ANTHEM: The flaws of Ego and Self for Moral Utopia

Written as the diary of Equality 7-2521, a young man living in a future in which people have lost all knowledge of individualism, to the point of not even knowing words like 'I' or 'mine.' Everyone lives and works in collective groups, with all aspects of daily life dictated by councils -- the Council of Vocations, the Council of Scholars, etc. When he is assigned to a menial job cleaning the streets, Equality 7-2521 rebels against collectivism by conducting secret scientific research, which eventually leads him to re-create electric light. When he presents his discovery to the Council of Scholars, they condemn him for daring to act as an individual and threaten to destroy his creation.  (

If I were to describe the novella that acts as the Objectivist manifesto in one word, it'd be "ironic." Not Alanis Morissette "ironic", I mean ironic, ironic. Considering that I am talking about Ayn Rand, I feel that mentioning Alanis is fitting. The singer-songwriter famous for her angry, pissed off complaints, or songs if you'd rather call them that, is a fair comparison to the quasi-philosopher who stopped at nothing to warn about the dangers of Communism/Socialism (they're the same thing anyway), even if it meant to never try and find out what they are. Just like how Alanis never cared to open up a dictionary to learn how to properly use the word "ironic."

Ayn Rand was born in Russia to a bourgeois (rich) family. After the revolution she saw the disasters of Russian Communism. When first coming to America to visit family, she saw the Manhattan skyline and wept tears of joy, deciding she must never leave America. Thus becoming one of the biggest supporters of American Capitalism, ever. Being brought up in the Soviet Union, she thought that the Communist state of Russia is what Communism actually was because of how it was executed in Russia. When in reality a leader (Stalin) used Marx's ideas differently than how Marx intended them to form a type of Communism in which he and his followers would benefit from, being the few that oppressed the many. Just like how many leaders (Corporations) have taken advantage of lassiez-faire Capitalism to become the few that oppress many. As was said by a Russian contractor who spoke with my family (paraphrase), "America feels like the Soviet Union, just a little different."

In Anthem, Rand paints a picture of dystopia. Councils that control all decisions in a society where people don't even have proper names. They have identification numbers (e.g. Equality 7-2521), and are told what job to fulfill. They breed once a year to create offspring that they never meet. Each person is born into a class and has no hope of escaping it. If I didn't know better, this is modern day America. But, I do know better, and Rand was trying to paint a picture of Communism/Socialism. This is of course the ironic part of her novella. Maybe it was just a lack of foresight or understanding of economic/governmental systems, but she shows the great similarities in what tragedies can happen when one takes advantage of another out of their own selfish desire. But of course, according to her that's perfectly ethical. 

At the end of the novel when Equality 7-2521 learns the word "I", and discovers the self, he realizes the importance of such concepts. That there is nothing but shame in the word "we", it means weakness. The only thing that is important is one's own fulfillment of their happiness, no matter what it means for others. This is called Ethical Egoism. Which isn't Rand's idea, at all. 

It is likely that Rand studied the ideas of Thomas Hobbes, who held a position called Psychological Egoism. Which is that man is naturally focused on their own self-interest. Hobbes also states that because of this, man is incapable of performing a truly altruistic action. Therefore, we have Ethical Egoism, which is that since man can only be selfish he ought to act on the desire of the self in order to be ethical. Another philosopher points out the problem with this. 

John Locke notices that to say we ought to do something means that we can do that thing; ought implies can. For example, if I told my friend Adam that he ought to solve world hunger by tomorrow, he might be put into a difficult place. There is no way Adam can solve world hunger by tomorrow, so he therefore isn't ought to do it, since he can't. Similarly, if I told Adam he ought to do his laundry tomorrow, then since it's something he can do, he might ought to. But, he also can decide not do it. Which means ought implies both the ability to do and not to do something. So, if man ought to act selfishly to be moral, he can act altruistically. But Hobbes holds that man cannot be altruistic and therefore should act selfishly! 

Because of these arguments, it might not be a bad assumption that Rand had as much understanding of Egoism as she did of Communism/Socialism. Nonetheless, Rand's own theory, Objectivism, is a moral theory of selfishness and that the only moral system to uphold this goal is Capitalism. If only she would have looked into Totalitarian states versus Democratic states. 

It seems to me that what Rand has a problem with is Totalitarianism. She dislikes the idea of someone being in control of her pursuit of happiness. She also probably is much more of a hedonist than an egoist.  I say this because of the emphasis she puts at the ending of Anthem on one's own happiness. Which I do think is essential, partly because one must be well in order to help others be well. 

This is where the biggest flaw of the novella comes out. Much like Rand, the protagonist of the novel goes from one extreme to the other extreme. He goes from having no identity to only having the self.  His life has been chosen for him and when he discovers something new, electricity, he tries to share it with the others, but they're outraged. They hold the position that if something is not agreed upon by everyone than it must be false/wrong. So, facing punishment, he leaps out a window and heads to the Uncharted Forest. He travels and finds fulfillment and pleasure in hunting and cooking his own food instead of it being prepared for him. He sees himself for the first time in a reflection of water. Finally, he learns the word "I". (Throughout the entire novella he annoyingly referred to himself as "we", which I originally thought was some sophomoric style choice). Moving from the extreme of being in nothing but a interdependent community to being completely independent. Though he is followed by a woman whom he has been lusting after, he is now dependent on no one. He does all for himself and teaches her to do the same. 

Though he does mention that he may choose friends, and that he decides when to see them and when not to, I still feel that people are so built into their families and social circles that this extreme would frighten them more than being interdependent. If we are to look at the natural world, we see a large amount of examples of successful species who mirror this interdependence. The problem is the extremes. When put into an extreme the same things are likely to happen. 

Russian Communism was an extreme where the state owned most of the wealth and all the power and oppressed the many to keep said power. If we move to the other extreme, corporate entities can take advantage of workers and gain most of the wealth (e.g. the top 1% make up most of America's wealth) and all the power, oppressing the man to keep said power. Similarly, in Anthem, we have the extreme of a council controlled society where they have all the power. When the protagonist escapes he finds a house and tells the woman who follows him all that he has learned, telling her this is the way it is because he has decided so. Though Rand probably didn't intend this, but he now, at any moment, can take advantage of her and have all power. She becomes subservient to him. If she does not act as he has decided to act, she is wrong. No longer is someone wrong because everyone does not agree, but now someone is wrong because they do not agree with him. 

At the beginning, I called Rand a quasi-philosopher. She resembles something like a philosopher, but her poor use of logic and argumentative form leaves her short of such a distinction. Also, she fails to see the flaw in her ethical pursuit. I would argue that Stalin acted incredibly selfish, which lead the to system she abhors more than anything else. But, according to Rand, isn't that exactly what he ought to have done? She does not recognize the possibility that in one's pursuit of the self they can take away the possibility of other's to do the same.

She also detested any form of the public sector in government, basically condemning such services as Social Security and Medicare as immoral. It only follows that such services go against her moral outlook. Yet, she cashed Social Security checks and took from Medicare when she was suffering from lung cancer. A very selfish act indeed, but it tears down the idea of selfishness being moral. Her actions implicate that immoral systems are O.K. when acted upon from a moral place. If this is true, than an immoral system such as the eating of unwanted babies is O.K. when coming from the moral place of solving hunger. 

Extremes bring about corruption and unequal distribution of power and wealth. To act solely for the self in an egoistic way is a harmful extreme. It is in no way moral and must be avoided, at all costs. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST: God is not an American.

The carpenter Jesus of Nazareth, tormented by the temptations of demons, the guilt of making crosses for the Romans, pity for men and the world, and the constant call of God, sets out to find what God wills for him. But as his mission nears fulfillment, he must face the greatest temptation: the normal life of a good man. Based, not on the Gospels, but on Nikos Kazantzakis' novel of the same name. (summary by Nick Lopez <>)
"You think God belongs only to you? He doesn't. God is an immortal spirit who belongs to everybody, to the whole world. You think you're special? God is not an Israelite!" - Jesus.
In the film The Last Temptation of Christ, Jesus is going to the temple to pray and finds something disturbing. A market place filled with buying and selling, transferring of wages, and a monumental statue of Caesar. The pharisees speak out to him, questioning him, challenging him. He shouts out the statement above, "You think you're special? God is not an Israelite!" 

This film by Martin Scorsese is famously controversial for it's fictional outlook on the life and struggles of Jesus. For many Christians, who I doubt have viewed the film, they find the fact that Jesus goes to Mary Magdalene in her brothel (though he does not sleep with her) disturbing and wrong; that Jesus is shown completely naked on the cross (though his genitalia is not in view) sacrilegious; and that the very concept that Jesus would want a normal life with a wife and children, evil. 

Yet there are those who disagree. Roger Ebert, the famous film critic, states that Scorsese and screenwriter Paul Schrader "paid Christ the compliment of taking him and his message seriously, and they have made a film that does not turn him into a garish, emasculated image from a religious postcard. Here he is flesh and blood, struggling, questioning, asking himself and his father which is the right way, and finally, after great suffering, earning the right to say, on the cross, 'It is accomplished.'" Ebert, is absolutely correct. For Christians, if Jesus did not struggle with temptations, both the ones of grandeur that the devil brought about in the desert, and normal bodily ones such as lust for women, fear, and violence; how hard would it be for him to sacrifice life? If Jesus had no struggle with everyday life than he could not be man and God, just simply God. We are defined by the pain and suffering that all humans endure. If Jesus did not suffer along with us, than his sacrifice means next to nothing. 

Now, as an a nonbeliever there is more to delve into here. We must remember that though Jesus is the center piece of Christianity, he was also a practicing Jew, a Muslim Prophet, as well as looked at historically as a social revolutionary against the Roman Empire. You think Jesus belongs to you? He doesn't. He belongs to everybody, to the whole world. 

Dr. Cornel West, a philosopher and Christian, often calls us to look at Jesus' life, not his death. To see how he acting in the oppression of Imperial Rome. How did he lead the suffering people against the Romans in his Imperial Age, and how can that be an example for us to live in our Imperial Age? We must be highly critical of our empire, to focus on the oppression that the workers suffer on the underbelly of the American Empire, just as Jesus was critical of the Jews who suffered on the underbelly of the Roman Empire. The parallels between all empires are uncountable, yet many of the people who do not do anything have the greatest example of an anti-imperial revolutionary living with them in their hearts. 

The Last Temptation... also deals with Jesus struggle with using love as our guide, that we must save through loving and using the axe. "Any tree that fails to provide good fruit will be cut down and thrown on the fire", will Jesus continue practicing love? Or will he take up the axe and cut down the tree? Is it possible to do both? These questions continually face us today. 

In Libya a tyrannous dictator is oppressing his people. They're dying of lack of resources or brute violent force. How are we to help? Can we help? Do we take up the axe, or leave that for the people of Libya? Can the people of Libya do anything?  How must we love them in this situation?

In the film, as well as in the Bible, Jesus puts forth, what I feel, is his most important idea. The Roman guards are taking him away, and Peter draws his sword, slicing off a guard's ear. "Put down your sword, Peter!" says Jesus, "those who live by the sword, die by the sword!" With this strong pacifistic statement, overwhelming full of truth, how do we then look at Libya? Should we start another war (or pre-emptive war strike) with a country, making the spreading of our troops thinner than now, risking more American lives to only recognize that the same actions will eventually bring us down? Or are we the violent effect that will justly strike down Gaddafi for his violent deeds? 

Jesus also said to turn the other cheek, no longer to view justice as an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. With that in mind, based on his teachings, are we really in the place to make the right call? As a pacifist, I have a hard time accepting more violent action coming from this country onto the rest of the world. But at the same time I have a hard time accepting that Gaddafi is literally insane and can be allowed to kill more people because he won't accept that his time has come. Should we take an Utilitarian outlook? Is the killing of some lives acceptable so that we can stop a man from killing millions? 

I can't answer these questions, as usual there are too many variables. But one thing is for certain, we as Americans, can not call God ours. We are not chosen people. The concepts, ideas, teachings, and life of Jesus is not ours to own, because we, as a nation don't live up to those standards. But, does any nation? 

President Bush was able to gain a large amount of supporters for the Iraqi war (or pre-emptive war strike) because of (one) the fear people had after September Eleventh, and (two) because he said he was doing what God told him to do. Many Americans seem to have a sinful fixation on God, rather than a pursuit to follow Christian ethics and teachings. Many like to claim God for America. God isn't for our possession though. For the sake of progress we must admit that God is an immortal spirit, an idea, a concept, who belongs to everyone, to the world.

Do we think we're special? God is not an American. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

36 Arguments For The Existence Of God: A Work Of Fiction

After Cass Seltzer's book becomes a surprise best seller, he's dubbed "the atheist with a soul" and becomes a celebrity. He wins over the stunning Lucinda Mandelbaum, "the goddess of game theory," and loses himself in a spiritually expansive infatuation. A former girlfriend appears: an anthropologist who invites him to join in her quest for immortality through biochemistry. And he is haunted by reminders of the two people who ignited his passion to understand religion: his mentor and professor--a renowned literary scholar with a suspicious obsession with messianism--and an angelic six-year old mathematical genius who is heir to the leadership of a Hasidic sect. Each encounter reinforces Cass's theory that the religious impulse spills over into life at large. 

I first heard about Rebecca Goldstein (author) from my Philosophy in Literature professor who recommended us The Mind-Body Problem. On a trip to Powells I looked for said book but instead found 36 Arguments..., and could not resist the title alone. I feel like it is safe to say that, that was one of the best decisions I've made when purchasing something.

The story's protagonist, Cass, is a great narrator and is nicely surrounded by a cast of characters with their own quirks and humour. Whether it is his new girlfriend and famous scientist, Lucinda; his ex-wife, a french poet who grew up playing with the future mathematicians of the world on a jungle gym; Roz, the exuberant anthropologist and ex-girlfriend; Azarya the young math genius and future Rebbe of all New Walden; Dr. Jonas Elijah Klapper, the odd genius and mentor to Cass; or Gideon, the grad student who followed Klapper for far more years than it should to earn a doctorate. Goldstein crafts these characters and gives insights into their point of views clearly without removing the narration from Cass. I will admit that after finishing the novel I missed them all very much.

One of the greatest aspects of the book, which also proves to be it's weakness at times, is that Cass does not censor the long drawn out ramblings of his mentor, because of this we are privileged to a lot of random information about many esoteric topics from different sects of orthodox judaism, to the dangers of scientism. Though at the core it still is focusing on the social philosophical aspect about if God really does exist.

Each chapter is titled "The Argument from...", mentioning the topic at hand that the chapter will focus on. Showing that the issue of God is a more personal one and experiential one than those of us who stick to straight forward, sequential, organized arguments. Cass's book that launches him into fame is called "The Varieties of Religious Illusion", which in it carries an appendix with the 36 most common arguments for God and the reasons why each don't work (something Goldstein added as an appendix to her book). Though this has been the more popular part of the book, Cass wanted to focus on how people experience God and spirituality, further showing that the actual belief in God is not necessary to have these experiences, while at the same time not down talking to anyone who carries said experiences. Thus being dubbed, "the atheist with a soul."

Early in Goldstein's book, Cass comes across a beautiful sight of ice that has been carved naturally into three perfect arches by a river that looks like a mighty cathedral. It is from this experience that he has while walking in the middle of the night that he comes up with the 37th argument for the existence of God. Though he struggles forming and bringing it into a type of premise-conclusion form, he finally does it, only to forget it.

This is what Goldstein tries to bring about in her novel, the personal arguments for the existence of God, and why it is that way. That since religion is better explained as an experiential existence than a belief, we must look at the arguments from that perspective. Even though I think I can create a near full proof argument for why no one should waste time believing in God or following religious practices, I still respect my friends who do because I understand that they aren't believing in God because of an argument (unlike C.S. Lewis I might add). But because there is something real about God that they experience, and any argument presented to them would not necessarily be reason for them to quit, only reason for them to carry animosity towards me.

Goldstein uses the life of her character, Cass, to show the life of an atheist with a soul. To show the "faith struggles" he has, and ultimately to make a personal argument for the existence of something more than us here on earth. This is brought out through the constant inner thinking that Cass does. He finds himself throughout the novel feeling like his life has brought him to a foreign place that he can't quite understand. Grappling with the question, where does an atheist turn to for meaning, purpose, and comfort? Goldstein knows that one can't explore this question, as well as the conflict between faith and reason, by argumentation alone. This novel is her way of exploring the personal aspects of this conflict, division, and all questions that follow from it. She does so in a charming and respectful way that is both entertainingly fulfilling for both believers and nonbelievers alike.

Through all the doubts he has about his skepticism, Cass, goes back and forth in his memories to try and piece together his life while dealing with the decision to become a professor at Harvard. The story climaxes when he has a debate with a neo-con economist over the existence of God. This materialization of a debate between the two sides shows only what has been talked about the entire novel. Is God real?

To find out the conclusion that Goldstein has come to, you must read the novel yourself.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

DOGTOOTH: Paternalism Run Amok

Three teenagers are confined to an isolated country estate, by their parents, that could very well be on another planet. The uber-controlling parents terrorize their offspring into submission. The father is the only family member who can leave the manicured lawns of their self-inflicted exile, earning their keep by managing a nearby factory, while the only outsider allowed on the premises is his colleague Christina, who is paid to relieve the son of his male urges. Tired of these dutiful acts of carnality, Christina enlists the elder daughter for some girl-on-girl action, carelessly disturbing the domestic balance.

I first heard about this movie from a friend, Chris Osborn, and after watching the trailer, decided I needed to see it. I waited patiently for a few months until finally being put on Netflix Instant Play. The film speaks of the dangers of parental protection. Having blocked off their children from the outside world, these parents also control their knowledge of language. This is quite comedic at times when they try and explain the words "sea" and "phone" by relating them to objects in the house. The former is an armchair, the latter being a salt shaker. I found this to be a clever little trick the filmmaker used to deter those trying to find holes in the film. As well as use of comic relief. My favorite part, which leads to my least favorite image, is when they are told of the most dangerous creature on earth, cat, and that cat will tear them to shreds, killing them. That they must not leave the confines of their home because of this terrible beast. The parents then create an older brother who left home too early and was torn to shreds by cat. When a cat does show up in their garden, the son attacks it carefully with hedge trimmers. This results in my least favorite image, I'll let you find out what it is for yourself.

The film is beautifully shot, very crisp colors and superb framing. It is though, graphic in sexual and violent nature (such as the cat scene). This brought to the rising filmmaker, Giorgos Lanthimos, the title of being a new master of provocation in the same vain as Lars von Trier. A title I don't like much when attribute to von Trier, and definitely not to Lanthimos. The very idea of a provocation to be the center point of a film is absurd. At least with directors who make such beautiful movies, though provocative at times. I can see where someone would think movies by both directors are provocative; however, it is clearly not the goal of the director.

Lanthimos shows us the dangers of Paternalism in this piece, better than I believe Mill or Kant would be able to exposit. My understanding of Paternalism roots from learning Kantian Ethics in my Intro To Philosophy class. Kant, being a protector of reason, finds that all of ethics can be brought down to a duty we have as beings with the ability to reason. It is our ability to reason that sets us apart from other living creatures on the earth, and is of intrinsic value. Because of that value, it is wrong to hold Paternalistic practices that detracts our freedom to reason for ourselves.

In Dogtooth, when the stranger who comes into the family's home, a number of times, realizes the horror of their situation, takes advantage of it. She trades items for sexual favors with the eldest daughter. When she eventually trades a few American movies (did I forgot to mention that this is a Greek film?), and the father finds out, the entire system is broken. In order to keep control over them he decides that one of the sisters must fulfill his son's male urges. The family can no longer hold together the way it did...

The ending of the film shows that this relentless Paternalism leaves the children with no possible life. I highly suggest it to anyone who enjoys art house or foreign films. The movie is up for an Oscar this year under the category of Best Foreign Language Film.