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Synopsis for
Dogville (2003) More at IMDbPro »

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Dogville is a very small American town in the Rocky Mountains with a road leading up to it, but nowhere to go but the mountains. The film begins with a prologue in which we meet a dozen or so of the fifteen citizens. They are portrayed as lovable, good people with small flaws which are easy to forgive.

The town is seen from the point of view of Tom Edison (Paul Bettany), an aspiring writer who procrastinates by trying to get his fellow citizens together for regular meetings on the subject of "moral rearmament." It is clear that Tom wants to succeed his aging father as the moral and spiritual leader of the town.

It is Tom who first meets Grace (Nicole Kidman), who is on the run from gangsters who apparently shot at her. Grace, a beautiful but modest woman, wants to keep running, but Tom assures her that the mountains ahead are too difficult to pass. As they talk, the gangsters approach the town, and Tom quickly hides Grace in a nearby mine. One of the gangsters asks Tom if he has seen the woman, which he denies, and so the gangster offers him a reward and hands him a card with a phone number to call in case Grace shows up.

Tom decides to use Grace as an "illustration" in his next meeting - a way for the townspeople to prove that they are indeed committed to community values, and willing to help the stranger. They remain skeptical, so Tom proposes that Grace should be given a chance to prove that she is a good person. Grace is accepted for two weeks in which, as Tom explains to her after the meeting, she has to convince the townspeople to like her.

On Tom's suggestion, Grace offers to do chores for the citizens - talking to the lonely, blind Jack McCay (Ben Gazzara), helping to run the small shop, looking after the children of Chuck (Stellan Skarsgrd) and Vera (Patricia Clarkson), and so forth. After some initial reluctance, the people accept her help in doing those chores that "nobody really needs" but which nevertheless make life better, and so she becomes a part of the community.

In tacit agreement, she is expected to continue her chores, which she does gladly, and is even paid small wages in return. Grace begins to make friends, including Jack, who pretends that he is not blind. Grace tricks him into admitting that he is blind, earning his respect. After the two weeks are over, everyone votes that she should be allowed to stay.

But when the police arrive to place a "Missing" poster with Grace's picture and name on it on the mission house, the mood darkens slightly. Should they not cooperate with the police?

Still, things continue as usual until the 4th of July celebrations. After Tom awkwardly admits his love to Grace and the whole town expresses their agreement that it has become a better place thanks to her, the police arrive again to replace the "Missing" poster with a "Wanted" poster. Grace is now wanted for participation in a bank robbery. Everyone agrees that she must be innocent, since at the time the robbery took place, she was doing chores for the townspeople every day.

Nevertheless, Tom argues that because of the increased risk to the town now that they are harboring someone who is wanted as a criminal, Grace should provide a quid pro quo and do more chores for the townspeople within the same time, for less pay. At this point, what was previously a voluntary arrangement takes on a slightly coercive nature as Grace is clearly uncomfortable with the idea. Still, being very amenable and wanting to please Tom, Grace agrees.

At this point the situation worsens, as with her additional workload, Grace inevitably makes mistakes, and the people she works for seem to be equally irritated by the new schedule and take it out on Grace. The situation slowly escalates, with the male citizens making small sexual advances to Grace and the female ones becoming increasingly abusive. Even the children are perverse: Jason (Miles Purinton), the perhaps 10-year-old son of Chuck and Vera, asks Grace to spank him, until she finally complies after much provocation. Soon thereafter Chuck returns home and rapes Grace, as it becomes obvious that she is hardly able to defend herself against exploitation.

After Tom discusses the possibility of escape with her, Grace is blamed by Vera both for spanking Jason and for being raped by Chuck. In revenge, Vera threatens Grace with destroying the porcelain figurines created by the town shop that she had acquired with the little wages she was given, Grace begs for mercy, reminding Vera of how she taught her children about stoicism. In response, Vera challenges Grace to stand up without shedding a tear while she destroys the first two of the porcelain figurines. Grace not being able to hold her tears, Vera destroys the remaining figurines. The symbol of her belonging in the town gone, she now knows that she must leave. With the help of Tom and Ben, the freight driver, she attempts escape in his apple truck, only to find herself raped by Ben and then returned to the town.

The town agrees that they must not let her escape again. The money that she used to pay Ben had been taken by Tom from his father, and Grace is blamed for the theft. Tom refuses to come forward because, he explains, this is the only way he can still protect Grace without people getting suspicious. At this point, Grace's status as slave is finally confirmed as she is collared and chained to a large iron wheel which she must carry around with her, too heavy to allow her to move anywhere outside the town. More humiliatingly still, a bell is attached to her collar and announces her presence wherever she goes. Tom is the only male citizen of the town that does not rape her.

This culminates in a late night general assembly in which Grace following Tom's suggestion relates calmly all that she has endured from everyone in town. Embarrassed and in complete denial, the townspeople finally decide to get rid of her. When Tom informs Grace to console her, he attempts to make love to her, having been the only adult male townperson who hasn't had sex with her. Grace, however, refuses to have sex with him. Angry partly at Grace's rejection, but even more at himself for his realization that he would eventually stoop to force himself upon her like everyone else in the town, Tom ends up personally calling the mobsters, and later proposes to unanimous approval that she be locked up in her shack.

When the mobsters finally arrive, they are welcomed cordially by Tom and an impromptu committee of other townspeople. Grace is then freed and we finally learn who she really is: the daughter of a powerful gang leader who ran away because she could not stand her father's dirty work. Her father confronts her in his big limousine and tells her that she is arrogant for not holding others to the same high standards to which she holds herself. At first she refuses to listen, but as she looks again upon the town and its people, she is compelled to agree: she would have to condemn them to the worst possible punishment if she held them to her own standards, and it would be inhumane not to do so.

So she accepts to be again her father's daughter, and immediately demands that the whole town be eliminated. In particular, she gives the order to have Vera look on at the murder of each of her children, having been told that it would stop if she can hold back her tears. The film ends in a crescendo of violence: the town is burned and all its citizens are brutally murdered by the gangsters on direct order from Grace, with the exception of Tom, whom she kills personally with a revolver. As the ashes of Dogville smolder around her, she finds and spares the only surviving resident, Moses the Dogville dog. Ironically, the only "dog" that hasn't wronged her was the town dog that had disappeared while the town was revealing its true nature.

(Source: WikiPedia, Bangs_McCoy)


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