Pin It
Favorite

DVD Review 

by Cara Gardner


Director Lars Von Trier seems to slither up on some people the wrong way, so if you've seen his other movies (Dancer in the Dark, Breaking the Waves) and didn't like them, chances are slim that Dogville will do it for you. Indeed, some movie critics have declared the film "anti-American." The truth, however, is that even though Dogville is set in an isolated, Depression-era Rocky Mountain town, Von Trier's film focuses on human paradoxes, not American ones.


Dogville is difficult for other reasons, though its challenges are rewarding. The entire three-hour movie takes place on an empty sound stage. Chalk outlines and simple fixtures (a chair, a jump rope) depict the sleepy town. The minimalism is startling, and, at first, discomforting. But by the film's end, however, an outstanding cast -- Nicole Kidman, Patricia Clarkson, Lauren Bacall, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Davies and Chloe Sevigny -- makes the empty set seem as vivid and complicated as the story itself. Which brings us to the next difficult part: Von Trier's message.


Critics have called Dogville everything from "unapologetically cynical and miraculously imaginative" to an arrogant film experiment that feels as if it will never end. It's a cynical film from a cynical artist: the nightmare for the dream that was Wilder's "Our Town."


The film moves slowly, sectioned in chapters and guided by the narration of John Hurt. Dogville's main character, Grace (Kidman), is a mysterious woman who literally stumbles into the town, desperate for shelter. It's obvious she's running from something, but her plight remains unexplained - until the ending.


A young townsman (Bettany), considers himself the moral backbone of his village; he pities Grace and convinces the townspeople to give her refuge. Reluctantly, they do so. Grace is at the mercy of the townspeople's acceptance or denial, and we watch as she goes from a nuisance to a valued community member, then back to an outsider who's abused and repressed and finally to a slave.


The subtle shifts in her situation are highlighted as examples in how collective thought helps compromise our innate morality, our primal understandings of right and wrong. Von Trier seems to force the realization that humans, like animals, will always take advantage of a weakling -- and that for such transgressions, we deserve to be punished.





Publication date: 10/21/04

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Barred from Help
  • Barred from Help

    Why mentally ill inmates continue to languish in the Spokane County Jail
    • Jul 22, 2015
  • Envision This!
  • Envision This!

    DSP is fighting the proposed Worker Bill of Rights; plus, finalists for Spokane's police ombudsman
    • Jul 22, 2015
  • Shake Down
  • Shake Down

    When a 9.0 magnitude earthquake rocks Western Washington, what will happen in the Inland Northwest?
    • Jul 22, 2015
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon
Moscow ArtWalk 2015

Moscow ArtWalk 2015 @ Downtown Moscow

Tuesdays, Thursdays, Sundays. Continues through Aug. 31

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Cara Gardner

  • Pride or Prejudice?

    Jim West may have overcompensated for his closeted sexual identity by voting against gay rights legislation. But how are his fellow Republicans dealing with the news that the powerful conservative has admitted to sexual relationships with
    • Jul 8, 2005
  • Plaintiffs Speak

    For many, the current hearings in the Washington Supreme Court regarding marriage equality are interesting side notes in the ongoing battle over the right of homosexuals to marry legally. But for Marge Ballack and Diane Lantz, two plaintif
    • Jun 23, 2005
  • Nightlife- Dance Clubs

    The Big Easy 919 W. Sprague * 244-3279 It's a weird phenomenon, the one R. Kelly describes when he sings, "I don't see nothin' wrong / With a little bump and grind." Bankers by day become "bumpers" by night; college students during the we
    • Jun 23, 2005
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Patrolling While Black

    Gordon Grant's nearly 30 years as a Spokane cop have been affected by race, but that's not the whole story
    • Jul 8, 2015
  • Rushing's Rant

    The Airway Heights City Council has asked the mayor to resign after posting a racist Facebook message
    • Jul 15, 2015
  • More »

© 2015 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation