Dogville (2003) Poster


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One of the bravest observations on the truth of humanity
Viz793 November 2004
I started watching Dogsville and felt like turning it off.. after all, what kind of movie could occur with no scenery? No doors.. it seemed like some sort of play/movie hybrid but after a shortwhile all those things faded away until I realized how much I would have missed if I had turned it off - it is now one of my favourite movies of all time.

Why? It is so brave to criticse humanity like this and admit just how 'dark' a race we truly are - not matter how much each of us profess to being 'good', we all know that most of us are anything but. Through this movie you see a woman who learns the cold harsh truth in a place where she expected to find the goodness that her faith told her existed. And then on not finding it, discovered that even within her lay a wrath that echoed the darkness that she herself wished did not feature so dominant in our race. And the biggest test of this is to observe your own emotions throughout this movie until what you feel at the end as perfect evidence...

I honestly believe those people that don't believe what this movie is expressing needs to take a cold hard look around them. And if they still don't believe, they are just like the people in this movie - unwilling to see the truth and coming up with excuses and reasons when nothing justifies the horrible world we live in.

A true masterpiece - one of the few pure pieces of art in cinema with amazing acting from Nicole Kidman especially, and the lack of a set causes you to be immersed in the characters like no other movie. And its 'them' and human nature that is the focus. Will leave you thinking and astounded (unless you don't like to think and can't watch a movie that isn't afraid to do something unique, in which case there a countless movies for 'you').
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A Disturbing Sense of Illustration
Benedict_Cumberbatch3 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
"Dogville" is, along with Peter Jackson's "Heavenly Creatures", one of the most disturbing film experiences I've ever had. Love it or hate it, it's impossible to be indifferent about this overwhelming film written and directed by Lars von Trier.

This is the first part of a trilogy ironically entitled "USA: Land of Opportunities" ("Manderlay" is the second, "Wasington" will be the third). "Dogville" begins with a prologue and extends to nine chapters in almost three hours of daring, exquisite film-making.

Nicole Kidman gives the performance of her career, in my opinion. Forget her (great) portrayal of Virginia Woolf in "The Hours", and the ambitious Suzanne Stone ("To Die For"): Kidman's most accomplished composition to date is Grace. She's a beautiful young American who, apparently on the run from gangsters, hides herself in a small Colorado town called Dogville, helped by Tom (Paul Bettany) and the other residents. Things go fine for some time until Dogville's folks begin to exploit the lovely Grace and, literally, chain her up like a dog.

You'll better appreciate the film if you don't know too many details (and even if you do, Von Trier reserved us lots of bitter surprises). We could say briefly that this is a film about those people you lend a hand and want to take your arm, but "Dogville" is too sharp and intelligent to be summed up this way. Many people accused Lars von Trier of criticizing the American arrogance violently. That's true, but the fact is that "Dogville" is a universal story: it could happen anywhere. Human beings are really this bad?, we wonder by the end. "Dogville" wasn't made to make you feel good, but it's a compulsory film for everybody.

"Dogville" is a much better work than "Dancer in the Dark", Von Trier's previous film which gave him the Golden Palm at Cannes, and proves definitely he's one of the greatest filmmakers nowadays. He led his ensemble cast wonderfully, and all of them are superb (that's no surprise, however, regarding Kidman, Ben Gazzara, Lauren Bacall, James Caan, Chloë Sevigny, Paul Bettany, Stellan Skarsgård, Jeremy Davies, Patricia Clarkson, Harriet Andersson, Udo Kier, Zeljko Ivanek and Philip Baker Hall, among others – honourable mention to John Hurt's excellent, ironic narration). 10/10.

P.S.: You'll never forget David Bowie singing "Young Americans" after seeing this film.
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Are you shivering after seeing Dogville? I am.
honorhorror30 November 2009
This is probably the most shocking movie experience I've ever had, not only because of the emotional impact, but because this is truly a moral-horror movie that slapped me in the face.

The film is probably one of the best moral tales ever told, in which Nicole Kidman and all the supporting cast shined. Why did the makers try to make it look incomplete? Why haven't they used more sophisticated production set rather than some made-believe structures directly exposing the film studio's interior environment to you? I didn't get it at first, thinking this might just be another pretending piece of crap that tried to be "artistic".

However as the story proceeded, the whole thing started to make senses. Featuring some of the best character study I've ever seen, the story involved you into the adventure of Grace, the main protagonist who's supposed to be despised by us logically and naturally. Then, the audiences were forced into a game that the filmmakers keep you guessing what would happen the next, until the very end.

The ending, in my opinion, is the most shocking and frightening ending ever seen in a film. Dogville is by no means marketed as a horror movie, but if one believes himself/herself to have the moral high ground, he or she should stand the test the movie has given us. For me, I chose to live with all the miseries happened to Grace and play along just like every other character in the story, "sh!t happens" as they say. This, has not only put me in shame but also freaked me out at the end. Considering the potential spoilers I would caused, I'd suggest you go see it for yourself.

With superb acting, very well plotted story and a shocking message for senseless societies, Dogville is easily a masterpiece.
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People as animals (spoilers throughout)
Ricky Roma18 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I find it quite amusing that so many Americans were outraged that Lars von Trier had the temerity to criticise their country without having visited it. After all, we do it all the time, don't we? Millions of us are quite content to sit on our sofas and criticise China, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Israel and countless other countries without having visited their shores. And we're perfectly justified in doing so. So why should Von Trier be vilified for criticising America from a few thousand miles away? Well, of course, I don't think he should. He's perfectly entitled to his opinion, and those that cry and moan are symptomatic of America's biggest problem – its inability to take criticism without getting its pants in a twist. Surely every great country should thrive on criticism. It should help it grow and develop. But instead America seems to resemble a child sometimes, spouting unhelpful phrases like, "America: love it or leave it" or, "You're either with us or against us." Therefore a film like Dogville, one that refuses to revel in the hollow American Dream, is vital, and it's a film that should be embraced, not shunned.

But anyway, what the detractors seem to overlook is the fact that Dogville could really be a small town anywhere. It may be the first part in an American trilogy, but the small town values with their prejudices and hypocrisy are universal. Everyone can relate...

The film begins and ends with a God's eye view of the proceedings and it isn't hard to imagine that Von Trier is looking down on the characters, judging them. In fact, as Tom himself says, everything is a game, a test, and Von Trier is the one pulling the strings.

The game begins when Grace enters the town. The townsfolk are frightened, but Tom thinks it's a gift. He wants to see if Dogville has a problem with acceptance. Well, at the beginning, the citizens are understandably cautious, but they're eventually placated when Grace proves that she can help them out. And so at the beginning she develops a good relationship with the town and its citizens. But even at the beginning the relationship is far from equal. She may like everyone, but she's essential a slave. Yet the townsfolk like her best like this, when she's happily subservient.

As the film progresses, the town is tested further. The police post wanted posters and accuse Grace of crimes that she couldn't have committed (as she was in the town at the time). But rather than this bringing everyone around to her cause, the town gets cold feet. It wants to help, but only as long as it doesn't put them at risk. Therefore they decide to doubly enslave Grace to make themselves feel better. It's an extraordinary move, but one that is anything but far-fetched. Individuals are brave, but people have worrying habit of proving themselves to be spineless.

And seeing as Grace affects the status quo, the townsfolk decide to take their frustrations out on her. The men rape her physically and the women rape her psychologically. In fact, the most upsetting scene isn't one of the numerous rape scenes – although Chuck's rape scene does prove the brilliance of the set, what with it showing everyone going about their daily business and turning a blind eye to what is going on - it is instead the womens' abuse of Grace and the destruction of her figurines. It's more than just a physical violation. It's a violation of everything. Her dreams are being smashed right before her eyes.

But why do the people of Dogville react this way? Surely their behaviour is an exaggeration. Well, it is and it isn't. Of course the film paints a bleak portrait of human nature that you might not find down your street, but I think that the film proves that we all have darkness present in us. It only takes the right conditions and the right buttons to be pressed for it to emerge. In the case of Dogville, it emerges for many reasons, but I think the main reason is because Grace shows everyone what they are. Before her arrival everyone is happily stuck in a rut, but once she arrives everything changes. Everyone is faced with their mediocrity and everyone's lies are exposed. In one scene McKay, after having finally admitted his blindness, indeed thanks Grace for "showing us who you are", but during her time in Dogville she also forces Bill to realise his stupidity (by playing checkers for him), Liz her unattractiveness (by catching Tom's eye), Ben his loneliness (by providing for him), Chuck and Vera their unhappy marriage (by catching Chuck's eye) and Tom his cowardice (through his refusal to kiss her even though she's admitted her love for him). Needless to say, not everyone likes being exposed. It's hard to face yourself when you don't like what you see. And therefore the person that you're going to punish is the one that made you look at your reflection…

The ending is certainly bleak, but I think it forces us to take a hard look at ourselves. How often have we taken advantage of other people when we should have helped? How often have our intentions been selfish? And Grace's final actions suggest one thing to me: if you treat someone like an animal, you shouldn't be surprised when they treat you like one too.
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Hard to digest, but great.
Fernando Carvalho28 August 2005
Tough. Once again Lars von Trier tortures the audience (as he did previously on Dancer in the Dark) by upraising the darkest side of the human being. From the beginning you know that things can only get worse, but I doubt that one can figure out neither what's to come nor the powerful conclusion. Nicole Kidman's interpretation is perfect - intense, poignant, passionate, you name it. She is fantastic and so is the small cast locked inside Dogville's scenario (a wonderful creation - I wonder how something so simple can bring such a strong effect). Again, the entire cast is fantastic and for that goes an extra credit for Lars von Trier. His capability of pushing actors to the limit and extracting painful emotions from them creates a heavy atmosphere, full of tension and, at the same time, so familiar. It is not that Dogville represents the essence of our communities, but it exposes some aspects of our lives that we prefer to hide under the carpet.
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Exploration of the darkness of the human soul
RayRoko23 December 2003
Warning: Spoilers
If one is looking for a starter to this heart-tearing masterpiece, I suggest My Dinner With Andre from 1981. Another movie from which you get a feeling of having read a good book. Very few films render that feeling, but these two do.

Where to start describing the bouquet of feelings this masterpiece has caused in me? A good point is admiration for Nicole Kidman's mix of wit, grace, innocence scented with beauty that, as the film evolves, turns into a thick film, a pellicle of suffering and enduring, glued together with forgiveness. I do not wish to believe that those qualities can be displayed credibly without the actress actually possessing them ( :) ? ) From the point Chuck takes advantage of Grace the first time, I couldn't stop occasional shivers the just-observed caused me, so much it touched. The conclusion can be drawn after watching the film: one cannot know his/her true nature unless given a real ungoverned power over another living being. They all seem nice in the beginning. The power and a sense of opportunity of free use only amplify themselves in Dogvillians. The evil seed in Chuck spreads among all the dogs, or were they all evil a priori?

Artificial settings? One stage? Please! They are forgotten in 10 minutes. As all true works of art, this thing glows from the inside, it doesn't need a vivid facade. Long movie? I would have liked to see maybe an even longer one, but it would have probably put me into even sadder mood watching the ugliness killing the grace.

Indeed, Tom, a great illustration of the fact that humans haven't changed from the medieval or perhaps even more primitive times - still dismissing the truth about themselves as lies, the truth that only very few of them are unselfish, decent in terms of morale and even 1 cm away from the animal desires for flesh.

Grace concludes that she wouldn't have been much better had she been born in Dogville. I disagree - one can be no matter how poor but still cultured, at list on a microlevel of one person, on a macroscale culture of course doesn't develop without having material funds at its foundation. Then a human raises his head from a plug and looks up in the sky, and connects with Love, and then the decency is born in him/her as a little fire that can't be put out by any amount of torture inflicted upon her/him. The decency can also be transferred from a parent to a child.

Dogville got what it deserved, in the end, justice comes in and flushes the inner hollowness created by co-suffering with Grace, heals the pain.

Thank you, Lars, and thank you, Nicole, this work is engraved into my mind for a lifetime.
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so43 September 2004
When I started the movie and realized that it isn't really a movie, that it is more like a play and that there is really a lack of props and scenery I thought to myself, My God, what the heck did I buy???? I'm a huge fan of Nicole Kidman and she is the reason I bought it in the first place. The movie (or play), whatever u might wanna call it, drew me in and I couldn't stop watching. The end is so powerful, I was speechless. That's one of the best movies I have seen in a long, long, long, long time. I don't agree with the Anti-American comments I read here in some of the comments. Human emotions are all the same all over the world and this movie could have played in any country. Anyway, go watch this movie it's soooo worth it.
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A brilliant film
pisanond26 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I watched this film after much of the controversy about it at Cannes had passed. The buzz in the U.S. press was that the film was slanted and reflected Lars Von Trier's ignorance of American society. Such arguments are specious on their face--there are examples of great literature and film making where the creator never set foot in the setting, as any reader of Shakespeare well knows. So discounting the self-appointed guardians of America, what exactly is this film about, what are the film's merits and why does it evoke such strong feelings from its audience, especially American ones? What Von Trier has done is take several American icons: the gangster, the small town, the woman in distress, the ideal of the common person, the local sage and the wise elder gentleman doctor, and has turned them on their head to create a timeless play about human motivation, greed and the corrupting influence of power. The people of Dogville are on the surface simple and decent people. Grace's arrival and her helplessness is the catalyst that, step by step, tempts the people of Dogville to inflict upon her greater and greater humiliations to feed their now unrestrained desires. So complete is her humiliation that the twist at the end leaves the viewer very little sympathy for the fate of Dogville's citizens. It is a powerful message and the judgment of the characters is one that takes no prisoners. That there are more than a few examples of this behavior in contemporary American society (and in the American past) and that it confronts these issues directly is the reason for the controversy surrounding it and--apart from the brilliant acting, especially by Ms. Kidman and Paul Bettany--what makes it great art. Von Trier has made a movie that is part of the quintessential American proletarian artistic tradition and its setting in 1930s America is part of the film's genius. That he is not an American and that this movie did not originate in Hollywood should give us all pause. There is a scene in which Grace confronts the people of Dogville with a critique of their bad behavior. Their response is to either deny the truth of what she has said or to blame Grace herself for tempting them. This movie, without being preachy or dogmatic, attempts to provide its own critique and received much the same reaction as the movie's protagonist. I would not be surprised if this was Von Trier's original intent. Dogville is a disturbing and powerful film.
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A film which is stunning in its simplicity.
miriamgaynor5 September 2008
Initially I found the 'play' set-up gimmicky and disconcerting, however I soon forgot all about the framing and became fixated on the picture itself. There are no special effects nor camera tricks and make-up is kept to a bare minimum, which allows us to focus purely on the story and the quality of the acting; both of which are exemplary. Nicole Kidman is amazing as usual bringing a wonderful vulnerability and frailty to her character which conceals an underlying ruthlessness and brutality. Ample support comes from co-stars Betthany and Chloe Sevigny and in truth the whole cast is frighteningly convincing.

The story is simple, a young woman who it appears is on the run from the mob seeks refuge in a small town known as Dogville. The residents who are initially wary of her soon warm to her and welcome her into their midst. This however, comes with a price she must do small favours in return for refuge. Inevitably greed, desire and mistrust take over the residents which corrupts them and has devastating consequences for all involved.

The dramatic shift in the mentality of the townspeople is so well handled and expertly crafted by Von Trier, that it makes the emotional payoff which one receives at the end of this film even greater. It is utterly compelling and has universal themes. Ultimately, this is a film which may serve as a cautionary tale for all self-proclaimed 'civilised' societies and as a treatise upon karmic retribution.
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Unforgettable Bitter Play About a Town, Which Did Not Deserve To Be On the Map, and Its Disgusting Dwellers
Claudio Carvalho7 July 2004
Warning: Spoilers
On the Great Depression, the fragile and beautiful Grace (Nicole Kidman) arrives in Dogville, a small town in Colorado, escaping from the mob. Tom Henson (Paul Bettany), a young local man, welcomes and introduces her to the distrustful community. They decide to vote whether she could stay with them or not. After a brief meeting, they decide to lodge her for fourteen days, when they could judge her behavior and come up to a final decision. Meanwhile, she should perform some small jobs for them in a sort of retribution, receiving a symbolic payment. Later, the police come to the town with some pictures of her, informing she was a missing person. The vulnerable Grace becomes a slave of the community, being used by the locals in the most sordid and cravenly way. The conclusion of the story is spectacular.

Two days ago, I started seeing this long unusual movie, indeed a filmed play. It surprised me in the first moment, but a friend of mine told me that this movie was a sort of 'love it' or 'hate it' film. Yesterday, I finished watching the DVD and actually it is one of the best stories about human exploitation and pay back I have ever seen. In some moments, the unfair misery of Grace recalled me Victor Hugo's Jean Valjean. It is amazing the tendency of the human race, when having some kind of power, to exploit those who need. The lack of scenarios or special effects highlights the stunning performance of the cast in a very original screenplay. This film is a great homage to the theatrical world and for great actors and actresses. My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): 'Dogville' ('Dogville')
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