This is not a film for everyone, as I watched it quite a few members of the audience left. One couple even left with less the 20 minutes to go, nevertheless I am going to recommend it because I really really enjoyed it. I haven’t seen any of Von Trier’s films before, and I’m not sure if this will make me more likely to, but if he ever does make the others in the trilogy then I will go to see them.
Dogville starts off with John Hurt, as the narrator, introducing us to the town of Dogville, and the first thing that stand out if the set. Or lack of it, the town is represented by white outlines and names to let us know that this is the Gooseberry bush, and this is a certain individual’s house. This may seem a little strange at first, but once the film gets going the story and characters take over, and the reason behind the set design becomes clear as its importance fades. The story revolves around Nicole Kidman’s character of Grace. She is a fugitive, wanted by gangsters for some reason. All she tells Tom (Paul Bettny) is that she saw the boss’s face. The town, after much prodding by Tom agrees to give Grace two weeks in order to try and fit in, then everyone will vote and decide whether or not they will take the risk and allow her to hide in their town.Tom suggests that she make herself useful to the townspeople by helping out, but when she offers no one seems to need any help, but after a bit of thought they all find tasks they would like performed, but that are not neccesary.
That is the opening to Dogville, and I am not going to say anymore about what happens. I wouldn’t want to spoil anything you know.
The film is strange, in that I could almost see things happen before they occured yet I would not call it predictable. Maybe it is because we get hints in the chapter names, and there is always a sense that things will not go well for Grace. The two main characters are Grace & Tom, and although they the most interesting, the others all have their unique aspects; from Vera’s naming of her children after characters from Greek myth (one is called Achilles) to Ben and his weeklly visits to “Miss Laura”.
Apart from Grace’s story this film is about power, and how it corrupts. But it is in the final scene that the most memorable dialogue (and action) takes place as we get a discussion on arrogance and forgiveness. Is it arrogance to forgive others if they do not even ask for it? Should we judge others? And if so against our standards?
Dogville is an examination of morality, and although it is set in America it is not really an examination of American morality, but of humaity’s morality. Von Trier has recieved criticism for setting Dogville (and others?) in the US when he has never visited, but as he says on the official website isn’t America the one place that has exported itself almost everywhere? And did the American makers of Casablanca ever visit Casablanca? Another point he raised that I found interesting was that he has no power to harm America, so why shouldn’t he be allowed to make fun of it?
Despite that I don’t really think he was making fun of the US alone, but of people everywhere. And by poking the audience in such a way it makes us exam ourselves. I watched Dogville as a dark comedy, and one with a deeper message. And I really really enjoyed it.
Go watch it