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Dogville (2003)

  Directed by: Lars von Trier
Written by: Lars von Trier
Starring: Paul Bettany, Nicole Kidman
Links: Dogville on the IMDb, Official site, Buy on Video, Buy on DVD
Genre: Drama

This movie gets: 9.00 (1 rating) Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

"Pushing the bounds, treading the boards" - a review by pearly

Dogville is not a dogme95 film, as was director Lars von Trier's other well known earlier work, The Idiots (1998). In fact, Dogville is like a concept film which explores a different technique for films, which goes completely against the dogma vows.

Dogville is filmed entirely within a soundstage. Set in the town of Dogville, which consists of just one street, the street and its houses are mapped out on the wooden boards of the stage with white paint. There are props here and there - a church bell and organ, a window with walls that are just imagined, a rocking chair sitting within the confines of the painted lines that indicate the walls. Perspective shots are often taken from above so that the imagined landscape can be seen, and shots at eye level often back onto just a plain white background rather than any real setting.

Acting in such a foreign setting must have felt strange to the stars of this offbeat film - but luckily, von Trier has enough pull to have been able to cast brilliant actors that could cope with the challenge and turn Dogville into a success, rather than just a half-baked experiment: actors like Lauren Bacall, James Caan, and Philip Baker Hall. Indeed, after the initial novelty value, the film starts to feel surprisingly real, and the characters are left bare, with their minimal props, allowing you to focus on them, and immerse yourself in the story.

Due to the nature of the story, there aren't really any leading roles in the film aside from Nicole Kidman: it is a true ensemble cast. Kidman stars as Grace, a woman on the run from the police and the mob, who finds herself in Dogville and is convinced by Tom (Paul Bettany), a man who instantly becomes smitten with her, to stay and make her case with the rest of the townspeople to be kept secret from the people on her tail.

The town are reluctant at first, but agree to let her stay. Grace then sets about spending a little time each day with each of the townspeople, doing whatever chores they might need or want, hence the required ensemble cast, as Grace is constantly visiting a different member of the town. It is through these visits that Grace starts to feel a part of the town, but as the police step up their investigation to find her, the townspeople find that they are torn between wanting her to leave and wanting her to stay.

von Trier's cleverly written script lulls its viewer into a false sense of security where things sneak up and surprise you, but on later pondering, you realise that what has happened should probably not have been as big a surprise as it was. Some of the townspeople are not particularly nice to Grace, but she takes it all with good, ahem, grace, and as a viewer, these actions become almost acceptable.

Dogville has been bagged as being anti-American, and in a way, it is, but if you look beyond this, there's a complex story that is filmed in a unique way, leading to a thoroughly absorbing couple of hour's worth of entertainment. It's a story about morals, and should be relevant to any person, not just to Americans. Any lover of film as a medium should watch Dogville, if for nothing else than its structure - it's inspirational in its uniqueness.

pearly gives this movie 9 out of 10.
Review created on Thu 15 Jan 2004

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Number of reviews: 1
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Reader comments

  1. This is an excellent movie, Kidman is sublime in this and the cast at large help in achieving this great movie. Kudos to Lars.

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Akilis on Sun 01 Feb 2004 11:06 #

  2. i thought this was an amazin film - it takes a while 2 get used 2 the minal set but the compeling story line draws u in

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from kat on Wed 18 Feb 2004 06:51 #

  3. An amazing film - brillant and original - you'll have to have half a brain to enjoy. Makes you think.

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Bee on Wed 01 Jun 2005 21:17 #

Those who have commented give this movie: 10.00 (3 ratings)

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