Saturday, January 30, 2010

tm Does the QT 20 Part 13: Dogville


Dogville (dir. Lars von Trier – 2003)

Dogville, Small Town USA during the Depression, becomes the new home of a woman (Nicole Kidman) on the run after being involved in a bank hold-up in a nearby town. The Dogvillites are suspicious but she makes an ally (Paul Bettany), who wins the town over and they accept her; to show her gratitude, she starts doing little jobs around the town, helping people out. But, eventually, her need for secrecy and that the townsfolk hide her from the police, eventually puts them in a position to leverage the woman’s gratitude into servitude. Her attempts to escape are undermined and Paul Bettany’s character, convinced he’s doing the right thing by being an apologist for her, keeps making things worse. Eventually, her bank-robbing cohorts show up to claim her and it rests on Nicole’s character if there’s a need for pay-back.

This is not an easy movie to watch. Its shot on a bare stage with the walls of the buildings just marked on the stage, giving it a very theatrical atmosphere. Further, the metaphor is that in a small town, everybody knows what the other people are doing - walls are just for appearances sake. The communal silence that grows in the obvious mistreatment of Nicole’s character is chilling, especially as she’s systematically raped by the town’s men; which, on a set without walls, is done in plain view of the townspeople. The movie also is broken into chapters, complete with titles; some may complain of the stop/start flow, but it works like a play, with a brief pause between scenes.

The director, Lars von Trier, is a polarizing person – not only amongst viewers & critics, but also among the actors. The friction on the set of his movies is well known and clearly seen in one of the bonus features of the dvd – Trier sets up a ‘confessional booth’ where anybody can go in and discuss anything on video. However, full credits are given to Trier for effort and vision.

Not for everybody, but a great movie.

tm sez: 8/10


tom s. said...

Continuing with the spoilers.

I was uncertain about this movie until the last 20 minutes, because von Trier has an unhealthy tendency to present the victimized woman as a romantic saintly character (I hated Breaking the Waves). Then Kidman comes back for a visit and it made the movie for me.

Muffy St. Bernard said...

This is one of the few movies I was unable to finish...I didn't feel that the ad-libbing was very good, and it was so proudly, grandly, transparently, constantly PREACHY.

Though I may have been in the wrong mood. I just thought "What insight am I going to get from this that I don't already have?" It was like listening to somebody lecture you about How Your Parents Were Kids Like You Once, or something.