Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Dogville (2003)

By Eric Jessen 7/1/09

I hate it so much that I admire it. I know it wants me to hate it and I do. I will never watch it again, nor will anyone who watches it once watch it a second time. They'd be out of their minds. It is a truly horrible and painful experience. It has absolutely no redeeming qualities. This movie plays like an angry hate speech done by a crazed racist. Contempt for everything, particularly people, is pouring out of its seams. America is made the example for what's wrong with everything in the world. This movie is so intrepid in displaying its hate for man and America that it astonishes me. I admire it and find it strange because it truly doesn't want me to like it, or even really agree with it. I always believed that everyone wants to be liked by others and respected, but director Lars Von Trier laughs at that proposition and welcomes the idea of being alone with his bold work of art.
I sat through the 177 minutes and couldn't believe what was being done to the movies in Dogville. Maybe I'm just like one of its characters and am deathly afraid of change. But I found Trier's, so called, innovations shocking and infuriating. The most unique innovation in Dogville is that the entire film takes place on a sound stage with absolutely no set other than chalk outlining where houses are supposed to be and a few doors, beds, and other props. Movies have the ability to take the audience on an adventure to wonderful places like Vienna in The Third Man or Neverland but instead Trier takes us to a flat sound stage with Dogville and Elm St. written on the floor. Its not meant to look real. In the distance all we see is black. It has literally no depth. As a result we see the movie mostly in close-ups. There is also a lot of cutting and jerking of the camera like in a Bourne movie to make it less boring. (I'm surprised Trier even cares if it's boring.) All the actors mime opening doors or raking leaves making it painfully obvious that everything is fake. It became clear to me that Lars Von Trier is playing a sick joke and laughing at all previous movies that ask audiences to suspend disbelief. I can imagine Trier giggling in the back ground as his actors are forced to say with a straight face “All I see is a beautiful little town in the midst of mountains” or “Admit it, you've fallen for Dogville, the tall trees, the mountains.” One scene comes to mind in revealing Trier's intent. We see in a long shot, Grace(Nicole Kidman) being raped by one of the townsman in a room with no walls and all the townspeople standing in their rooms with no walls pretending not to notice. Yes, I know what you're thinking, he's making a point about the people of Dogville. You're right. The intention is that Dogville is a symbol of America and its people represent what's wrong with people everywhere. They are cowards that do nothing but hurt each other out of fear. There may be some truth in some of Trier's criticism of people, but Dogville fails miserably at trying to prove a point, because he shows no compassion. So many elements of this movie are chilling. Such as, the entire movie is narrated by sniveling voice that at some moments sounds condescending in saying Tom's house “in good times might almost pass as presentable” and then others sounds chipper in describing the nightly rape of Grace by townsmen like he was reading a children's parable. I also find it sad that a laundry list of talented actors, who for the most part did a spectacular job, would participate in Trier's game.
At some point near the end, Dogville appeared to reach a bizarre moment of clarity when it seems to ask people to change. That at least gives them the respect that they have the ability to change. That moment is quickly squashed in an ending that is very Trier. It is, for me, both disgusting and pleasing. All of Dogville (the town and the movie) is shot up by gangsters and burned. Thus ending the movie from hell.

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