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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').
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If one is looking for a starter to this heart-tearing masterpiece, I
My Dinner With Andre from 1981. Another movie from which you get a
of having read a good book. Very few films render that feeling, but these
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.
*** This review may contain 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')
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.
Dogville is long, and if you don't have the patience for a slow ramp-up
of tension, it'll turn you right off. There are a couple story devices
Von Trier uses that really bugged me, and I almost shut it off once.
I'm glad I stuck with him, though, because he really took it somewhere
and I came away really enjoying the experience..
Critics who hated Dogville talk about it's hamhanded anti-American slant (Lars von Trier refuses ever to set foot in that country). I knew nothing about this film or Von Trier before seeing it and I have to say I entirely missed the anti-America thing until the backcredits. Don't get me wrong, there are several scenes that make commentary about rampant nationalism, prejudice towards immigrants and small town xenophobia, but those comments could be made about the zealous in ANY region of ANY nation at ANY time.
If we are to criticize 21-st Century America, and there are plenty of reasons to criticize it, we must also criticize other peoples and governments who are screwing up royally. I think if Dogville has a point to make to America, its not that it is uniquely problematic, but that it is as problematic as any other nation. Where on this planet can you NOT find a group of people who think:
THE WORLD WOULD BE A BETTER PLACE IF EVERYONE WAS JUST LIKE US.
That statement is the kernel of failure for every major conqueror and every major religion in history and it portends the long, inevitable swirl down the toilet and the people who want you toppled have only to sit back and watch you do it to yourself.
America is a great nation, with a lot of culture, history and art to be proud of, and maybe that's why modern artists feel the need to make pieces like Dogville. To remind America that, as great as it is, it's still a nation of crying, barfing, excreting, whining, greedy, worried, scared mouths to feed, just like the rest of us -- no better or worse.
That's all I think Dogville does as an anti-American piece. If Von Trier meant to just poo on America, he missed his mark and ended up making a point about all of us. Regardless, he among many others wants America to change it's mind about itself, and it doesn't matter if he hates it or loves it. Much more interesting to me is the blatantly obvious point Dogville makes -- to what point do you forgive the transgressions upon you by others who may be less fortunate but are nonetheless doing wrong? It sure made me take a look at my own pacifism.
Nicole Kidman was brilliant, as was Paul Bettany and the simpler townsfolk who will play so skillfully with your emotions. It seems I've been flooded with Kidman movies regularly for a couple weeks now and this is my favourite of her performances.
Good film, Dogville.
*** This review may contain 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.
*** This review may contain 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.
This movie is not the best I've ever seen, and probably not as good as "Breaking the Waves". But I left the theatre astonished, shocked, sad, confused, and a bit angry with the director, for being so cruel (and true?) in portraying human behaviour with vulnerable people, for using no props, for forcing me to watch the characters in their eyes and facial expressions 'cause there was nothing to draw my attention away. But this movie deserves to be seen, because that's what an artist is supposed to do, to share a bit of his thoughts and views, without giving answers, but arousing emotions and questions: and it has probably more right to be than other blockbuster movies sold by studios with nothing but what people like to see in it.
Dogville is a small mountain village outside of George Town; it is a tight
community of good people who look after each other. However Tom, the
writer and moral heart feels that the people are not caring deep down. He
has the opportunity to test this theory when a woman, Grace, stumbles into
the village to escape gangsters. He challenges them to hide Grace and
her in - and is pleasantly surprised as they gradually do. In return she
agrees to do work for the villagers - however the relationship begins
decreasingly pure and increasingly exploitative.
I have a natural dislike for films that come across as pretentious or arty for art's sake, so you can imagine I approached this film with slight trepidation despite not having seen any clips of it. However, I did really like the film and was surprised just how quickly the three hours flew by. In terms of the plot, it is more than up to the task of the three-hour running time - in fact I (and most of the audience) stayed in my seat until the very last credit had run over great photographs and the great Bowie's `Young Americans'. The plot is good enough to be accepted but you do need to see past the script and look at what it is saying to appreciate it - although having said that it would still grip me even if it hadn't made me think.
Leaving the cinema I felt that I hadn't really bought the film's moral that nobody is really `good' because I felt that most people are not bad, and certainly not to this extent; but I think my mind was stuck on the specifics of the film rather than the meaning. In the film everyone is socially polite and restrained, but once the chance to take advantage comes, it is increasingly taken (albeit to extremes). I felt the film was particularly harsh to Tom, who was actually a `good' person - however I think time has allowed me to understand it better. We are not good people. We do take advantage of others, whether it be individuals (while trying to keep up our good public image as much as we want) or groups. Even those who turn a blind eye are `bad' simply because they could have acted for good and they didn't.
I saw this film two weeks after illegal immigrants drowned in the UK while picking cockles for very, very low wages - they were caught in mudflats by the rising tide. While the obvious `bad' people are those who made them work like this, many others knew of the work and ignored it. More pertinently to the film is the fact that a vulnerable and needy group were exploited by society - just as Grace was here. I didn't get the photographs over the end credit (I was into the music!) but they were all of the poor or minorities etc on the fringe of society - I found this challenging. When many of us see people in need we will do enough to look `good' and keep our social niceties (ie put a £ in the cup) just like those in Dogville did. We all feel good after this, but this film challenges that idea of `good' as wholly inadequate and that just being polite and moving on is still `bad' even if it is on a sliding scale. This is not to say that the film's plot and themes are perfect, but even flawed they are clear and will keep you thinking of the film long after it ends.
Of course it is unrelentingly bleak for the entire second half, but this is the film and I had to accept it for what it was. In terms of being arty, I found the bleak stage to work very well. The only downside of it was cuts from very black scenes to white scenes hurt my eyes in the cinema. This is not just theatre being filmed, the film uses the lack of scenery well. Sure it focuses the attention on the actors, but it also highlights how the people turn a blind eye. In my favourite shot, a rape occurs in one `house' and the camera shoots it through all the others, they are unable to hide from it even if they don't look - it is a very simple way of showing the audience that everyone knows but is socially polite. The film still uses makeup and props except for, inexplicably, Nicole Kidman herself. She starts the film looking good but ends it looking as good - when really she would have looked tired or bedraggled and destroyed.
In fairness Kidman manages to do that without makeup and her performance is very good throughout the film - it is easy to dismiss hers and the other stars' roles as some sort of justification of themselves as `real artists' but it was still a brave move for a business that is more about dollars than art. The rest of the cast more than match her and I was surprised to see so many big names. Bettany is very good as are Bacall, Hall, Ivanek, Sevigny and Skarsgård. Even the child actor is very self-assured and Hurt's homely narration is colourful and funny. Ironically the two black characters have little to do - the script says they are there as a token indication of Edison Sr's open-mindedness, but it is almost like they were token at times - sadly Shims' whole contribution is going `shhhh' twice! Despite that there are no weak links, the acting is superb and it certainly appears as if von Trier's aim of stripping the film away to focus on performances has paid off in a big way. Acting awards may not come but I have not seen more daring performances from a Hollywood cast for quite a while.
Overall this is a bleak and challenging film - not only to watch but to think about and apply to myself too. I left the cinema enjoying it but disagreeing with it's moral point of view, however I allowed myself to look and I now agree with it, as sad as that sounds. As a story and a film it is wonderful; the fact that it has come to the multiplexes' forcing thought and emotion is even better. The saddest thing is that so many teenagers at the screening I was in walked out - they saw something they were not used to and they rejected it within 30 minutes; I find that horribly depressing.
It's the only way I can describe a movie like this. To me, the best
movies are like watching novels. In some ways, this can be detrimental,
and at times, I did indeed find myself disconnected from the movie.
However, therein lies the redeeming value in "Dogville." Like a great novel, its nuances and details develop slowly and become intertwined with the underlying message within this film.
This movie forces you to pay attention to the story at hand. It's sparse of scenery and locale, yet if you're willing enough, you can fill in the details if you want to. The lack of scenery forces you to focus on the characters and the slow deterioration of their human sensibilities.
It's a movie that, like all brilliant movies, has themes that transcend into society as a whole.
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