I’ve got this new thought I’m rolling around regarding Yorgos Lanthimos movies. Having seen four now, I think you can view each of them as him trying on different boundaries for the scope of his Weird World.
In Dogtooth (Κυνόδοντας, 2009), the weird world is precisely and clearly delineated by the fence bordering the property that the family lives on. What defines this world is an arcane and expanding set of rules and explanations for reality that the parents have forced upon their cloistered children, who know nothing else. We meet a few people from outside this family, and they seem a bit Yorgos-y (the deadpan), but they very clearly do not live in the same false reality that the children do, so they are still absolutely outwith the Weird World.
In The Lobster (2015), the weird world seems to be the entire world—scope expansion maximum. What defines this world is that those who remain single for too long are sent to a center with a bunch of other single people to try to find a partner, and if they fail, they are turned into an animal. There’s the hunting part too, but that could be considered part of the rules of the smaller, subset world of The Hotel. And we do meet people from outside that facility, in a very plot-relevant way! But, notably, they still exist within the larger weird reality with the animals thing.
In The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017), the weird world is…a social circle? The few people we see outside of the family and their friends seem relatively regular (for Lanthimos). Interestingly, this time we don’t start out with any specific rules that define things, however, Barry Keoghan’s character begins to impose rules of sorts on the family as the story progresses. Why and how any of them have gotten themselves into this weird world is perfectly unclear though and honestly I think that makes this one more excitingly surreal than any of the other Yorgos Lanthimoses on this list, and perhaps relatedly, it’s my favorite of the Big Yorgos ones I’ve seen (where he is both writer and director).
In The Favourite (2018, and written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara this time), the weird world is lighter than the others, and is the British aristocracy. This is fun. We meet a few people outside the noble class and again, they’re weird (no one in a Lanthimos is not!), but they’re weird in a way distinct from the way the court is. This is because, and again this is so fun: because courts have rules! This is the Yorgos Weird World applied to an existing weird world structure in our own reality, and it goes really well and I think that’s a big part of why everyone liked this one so much. The Favourite was a bit different than his others, in several fundamental ways, but it was a really fine marriage and that was certainly part of what I found so keenly enjoyable about it.
Anyhow, Dogtooth. The strictest of the lot, yes I’d say even more than the one where single people are turned into animals. And the most sadistic, yes I’d say even more than the one where a boy is terrorizing a family. And I think it’s all because of the parents’ ability to cross the boundaries of this Weird World. Turns out that is the most disturbing concept Yorgos Lanthimos has presented me with yet.