Review : Lars von Treir's Dogville

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Has anyone seen this remarkable film (which is part one of Treir's USA Trilogy)?

My review...

Dogville is a film pleading for controversy and attention. It requires a viewing but it doesn't care how you take the film in the end. It is daring and inventive. It is an experimental attempt to exploit the weaknesses of America told through a small town in the mountains of Colorado. Fifteen characters make up the town of Dogville, this excluding the children of Dogville. The peaceful community all represents certain characteristics of American people through the eyes of the media since director/writer Lars von Trier has never stepped a foot in America. The accuracy of his writing is perplexingly close to what some may imagine as possibly truthfully represented characters of America. Dogville is the first film (a U opens the film) of Lars von Trier's soon to be infamous "USA Trilogy" set around the depression era.

When watching a film like Dogville, you have to consider that this is anti-American filmmaking told through the eyes of a director who has never set foot in America. His film is arrogant and raw, it is experimental and disturbing. Its characters are evil and some are masochistic. The town of Dogville is introduced to a beautiful fugitive running from the mob named Grace (played by the always entertaining Nicole Kidman); the town takes her in and allows her to serve them. She is in some ways an immigrant working for all these people to survive. The town soon starts to take advantage of her dedication sexually and work wise. Soon everyone starts to turn on Grace and her dignity is lowered, yet her life is never on the line.

The film is shot using possibly hundreds of DV camera's looming over a black studio lit by a lot of lights. The set up is basically in some ways a 360 degree stage. The actors are forced to pantomime most all of there actions due to the lack of objects. The set is basically all drawn out in chalk on the floor with labels of each person's house, street name, and areas around the town. This experimental form of filmmaking is fresh and in a strange way works out well for the story. There are times when the viewer may get tired and arrogant and get feelings of loss and hate towards the characters. This is because of how well written everyone is. The character of Grace never hates, she may fear the people she is running from, but to the residents of Dogville she tries to love and respect. Yet these people spit on her, they put a chain around her neck and keep her from escaping, why? Maybe because she is in too deep now? Maybe because it is the people of Dogville find pleasure in taking advantage of her?

There is never a moment where the viewer doesn't feel something dark looming in the future. The title cards per chapter all summarize what is going to happen next, and John Hurts narration makes sure you feel everything he says you should be feeling. The three hour running time makes the viewer uncomfortable during the film, but I felt that this is effective and helps make you hate the film even more. I imagine that Lars von Trier is making sure that all Americans who view this film walk away with hate and disgust. The undertones and theme of the film may be disturbing and unjust but this is due to the fact that the filmmaker is unjust. His accuracy may hit home but you should consider that if von Trier had come to America for a week his theory on America would be different.

The rape scenes rob Grace of her dignity. It is sadistic and cruel. Every man in the town (except for the man who supposedly loved her and gave her a chance) takes advantage of her body, especially when she is held back by the chain around her neck. The women of Dogville take advantage of her body for work; they make her clean glass, watch children, and pick apples. All Grace wants to do is make them like her, that is all she wanted to do, yet she deserved so much more. She is a woman fleeing from her past, but sadly she is stuck in a world surrounded by cruel humans.

There truly is no other way to describe Dogville other than it is a cruel attempt of exploiting America. With powerful performances from an excellent cast and a wonderfully experimentally directed film, Dogville is already a must see. But I honestly have no idea how people will react to the film after the images of America's failures stops rolling during the eding credits. It is surely and without a doubt a film that is something you have never seen before. Lars von Trier has made another excellent film, and the first story of "The USA Trilogy" is brilliantly executed with class and great elegance.

The R1 DVD comes out on August 24.

Waggy the Dog
Yes. Yes! This film was maginificent, pure genius!



In "Dogville", Grace (Kidman) stumbles upon a small town called Dogville, who's inhabitants have to little or nothing to do with the world outside their own secluded township with a population of a little over 15 people. Grace is wanted by the police, as part of a blackmail attempt by a group of her fathers cronies, so that she can run her fathers business. In exchange for providing a safe haven, she takes on odd jobs, which seem to pile up as her stay lengthens. Thinking she has found the happiness that she never had, once she enters Dogville, Grace comes to find that while it was a nice place to visit, it was an even worse place to live.

Grab your thin wire frame glasses and a mochachino, folks. This is a straight up arthouse flick with a superbly limited appeal to an even smaller audience. Lars von Trier gets props for his unique direction, by focusing soley on the characters than the set, by using the absolute bare minimum of props, including chalk outlines of streets and houses, but visuals are important to someone like myself, and Ms. Kidman isn't cutting it.

The acting isn't at all in question here, as it is pretty solid overall, from a cast of no names. It's just that the movie felt more like a school play, devoid of a score, and appealing visuals. The story itself was strong, but I didn't feel as if it was effective, being stretched over 3 hours. 2 hours would have sufficed. Nothing purtty to look at, plus no toons to add to the supposed "tension" equals a fish out of water.

"Dogville" is on's Top 250 at #119, but so is "Memento" and "Psycho", so those people are clearly irreputable.

3/10. Pure clean fun for the artsy fartsy types.

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