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"Dear Wendy" comes from the talents that brought us "Festen" and "It's
All About Love" (both written and directed by Thomas Vinteberg),
"Dogville," "Dancer in the Dark" and "Breaking the Waves" (written and
directed by Lars Von Trier). They have collaborated on Dear Wendy, with
Vinteberg at the helm and penned by Trier.
This is my favorite kind of movie; it begins with a "what if..." premise, which the storytellers follow with relentless commitment. In this case, the premise is "what if some misfit kids fell in love with their guns." Well, they'd give them names, they'd practice shooting and have a secret clubhouse, they'd study the famous gun-toting heroes of old, and the relationship they have with their weapons would become a mirror for their relationships with the world. All of which are pursued beautifully in the film.
Quite a few American movie critics read this film as a critique of American society, and they resent a European making a film about small-town America. An oft-vented complaint is that Trier has no business criticizing a country which he's never actually visited. I don't think, however, that this is ultimately a film about guns; the relationship these kids have with their guns is simply a unique window through which the filmmakers have chosen to show us the rich inner lives of the protagonists. They could have used a dysfunctional family (Festen), or movie musicals (Dancer In The Dark) or a tolling church bell (Breaking The Waves) to show us that world - but in this case it's guns.
Within the limits of the film medium - 10,000 words of dialog and around 140,000 frames of film - the choices of the filmmaker often revolve about what to leave OUT rather than what to put IN. This is a film that could be used as a textbook for economists. The script is tight - not a word out of place, although the narration feels conversational and casual. A film about child misfits and their guns could easily follow thematic red herrings all over the place in pursuit of social commentary, but "Dear Wendy" is utterly restrained - in spite of the "loaded" subject matter. On the cutting room floor are social commentary, cliché, and many of the cinematic crutches which Trier and Vinterberg rejected in their Dogme 95 days.
Any film lover who cares to see a film utterly committed to its premise, a film made with economy and efficiency, a film full of sweet irony, a film of deceptive simplicity, would do well to check out "Dear Wendy."
This flick, with its subtle views on America's obsession with weapons,
is likely not going to be a crowd pleaser. One of the main reasons for
this is the films use of highly symbolic mise-en-scene takes several
viewings to fully appreciate. Another reason for the let down is that
some might be inclined to want more action for a movie that centralizes
However, this movie is brilliant. The shot composition, the editing, the acting-this movie is very well pieced together. Also, as for the meaning of the movie, it goes in a direction that is a really provocative and fresh. I would highly recommend that you give this movie a chance, and keep an open mind. I have never been a fan of the director of this film or the writer, but I was deeply pleased by this film.
I went into this film extremely hesitant. I don't know Vinterberg well, but I do know there isn't much about Lars that I like at all. Top that with a subject matter that I'm rather sensitive about as well. But the film was beautifully filmed and the performances were enjoyable. I enjoyed all of it. I disagree with critics who say the film attacked America or had a heavy-hitting message in it. I think it's subtler than that. For me it was the big surprise of Sundance 05. Rich and fun. In the script, the characters were twice as old as those in the film, and I think Vinterberg made a wise choice in changing that. What is powerful in a teenager can look dorky in a 30-something.
All of this recent fuss about David Cronenberg's film, "A History of
Violence." What rot. You want a good film about violence and the gun
culture in America? Check out this little gem from the co-founders of
Denmark's Dogme 95 movement: Thomas Vinterberg ("The Celebration"), who
directed this film, and Lars von Trier, who wrote the screenplay.
Von Trier drives many American film critics absolutely bonkers because he has the temerity to make films about the "American Character," even though he apparently has never set either of his personal feet on U.S. soil. First came "Dancer in the Dark," set in central Washington State, then "Dogville," set somewhere in the Colorado Rockies. (The actual locations were European, as is the case in Dear Wendy.) These earlier films may have had their problems, but they nonetheless stung with their unflattering depictions of American hypocrisy, greed, violence and injustice.
The worst thing you can say about von Trier's depictions is that they are derivative, hardly novel or unique. Think of Nathaniel Hawthorne, or Theodore Dreiser, or Ralph Ellison, or Don DeLillo , or David Foster Wallace, or any number of other authors. Pick from almost any generation of American writers and you'll find these same themes sounded. Because like it or not - they are valid. And it should come as no surprise that some intelligent foreigner who reads deeply about America might be capable of writing a credible screenplay about our national foibles.
"Dear Wendy" is set in an unnamed mining town sometime before the present day, probably the 1960s, judging from the musical soundtrack. The town is obviously a false set, not a natural location (odd since this violates of one of Dogme 95's central tenets, to always use natural locations). A miner's son, Dick Dandelion (Jamie Bell, who has carved out a niche, it seems, playing miner's sons, beginning with his splendid performance in Billy Elliot) is a misfit, too fragile and disinterested to spend his life down the mines. Out of sorts, aimless, Dick one day buys a toy gun as a gift for a buddy. But he learns from his fellow misfit friend Stevie (Mark Webber) that this gun is actually a small but real bullet shooting weapon. Stevie, as it happens, has an obsessive passion for guns, gun history and the workings of guns.
These two hit upon a plan: why not start a little club, a cult of losers and outcast young people, the town's stray kids, and bring a little honor, pride and some decent principles of conduct into their lives. No one else is going to give them a break, so it's self-help time. The club will have a secret headquarters for meetings, indoctrination and just hanging out. The unifying themes will be the possession and adulation of firearms juxtaposed with pacifism (is this an amusingly ironic riff on our culture or what ?!) Members will learn to love their guns, to name them, to vivify imagined relationships to their guns. But they will also be honor bound never to use them to commit violent acts against others, not to mention each other.
The group is named The Dandies, presumably after Dick's surname, and grows to include Susan (Alison Pill), Huey (Chris Owen), Freddie (Michael Angarano), and Sebastian (Danso Gordon). An aging black woman, Clarabelle (Novella Nelson), eventually becomes a sort of honorary member, or, more precisely, someone whom The Dandies find need to protect from harm, once the going gets rough.
And the going does get rough. We know that it will only be a matter of time before the idyllic fantasy life shared by this noble little band is somehow shattered by violence. This force arrives in the form of Sheriff Krugsby (Bill Pullman) and a legion of police sharpshooters. It's the gunfight at the Not Very OK Corral. Without getting into further particulars, I will say that the final shootout between The Dandies and Pullman's legion is conducted with an awesome display of police firepower that absolutely resembles the massive use of high tech weaponry that we are accustomed to witnessing when America goes to war, whether abroad or in quelling domestic uprisings (think of Fallujah and Waco).
All the actors I have named deliver good turns. I was especially impressed by Bill Pullman, Jamie Bell and Mark Webber. The sound track features several songs by the 60s British pop/rock band, The Zombies, including their great hits, "She's Not There" and "Time of the Season." More than anything, to me this film feels a lot like a couple of Gus Van Sant's movies. The Dandies adopt period costumes as well as arcane, stylized manners like the street people in "My Own Private Idaho," and the notion of outcast young people bearing weapons, of course, permeates "Elephant," in a similarly lyrical manner.
I think "Dear Wendy" is a powerful film, brimming with poetic truth about us. Yes, it is polemical, one sided, provocative. It may be only half the truth, ignoring our national virtues. And the slant may be familiar. But Vinterberg and von Trier have teamed up to make a decent movie about our seemier side. (In English). My rating: 8/10 (B+). (Seen on 12/11/05). If you'd like to read more of my reviews, send me a message for directions to my websites.
I liked "Dear Wendy". It was well photographed, had good cast and the
rocking soundtrack provided the light icing on a film that is both sad
and happy from the inside.
It is a bit puzzling that this film has been seen as anti-American propaganda. It does criticise the American values - but so do many American films that are hardly described as anti-American. The message is even softened by placing the film in surreal, small mining town that is so detached geographically that you can almost feel the fiction. In some sense it bears resemblance to the village set on Brechtian stage in "Dogville" (compare for example the "stageness" of main street) by Lars von Trier, whose touch can be seen in "Dear Wendy", too.
It can be also seen as an anti-gun lecture - but that is just one perspective to it and in my opinion also possible to ignore.
The only turnoff is the somewhat annoying narration by the main character, that explains too much and leaves less for the viewer to ponder. I might be also giving one star too much, because the end scene, where the film picks up the pace left such a strong impression on me, and not just because of being so well shot action.
I saw this movie in France with a large group of friends, something I
highly recommend. We all seemed to have a different take on the film
and each of us was able to draw something unique from it. Some loved
it; some hated it. One of us focused on the powerful characters,
another on the coming-of-age aspect, another on the gun control issues,
etc. I saw it as a commentary on the power of fear in light of current
world events and about how allowing that fear to control your life can
ultimately bring about the very tragedy of which you are most afraid.
Dear Wendy certainly lends itself well to conversations that surpass the standard post-movie fare. I am looking forward to it coming stateside so I can see it again with other friends and see what reactions the film provokes in them ...
Up for the award for weirdest film I've seen in quite a while. You
don't believe me? Okay, the plot revolves around Dick, who seems to
have no friends at all and who lives in a small, nameless town in
America that is totally centred on working in the mine. He buys a toy
gun as a present for someone he doesn't like, but doesn't give it to
him. Eventually he discovers that the gun isn't a toy at all, its real.
He falls pretty much in love with this gun, names it Wendy, and forms a
type of gang; The Dandies, who are pacifists although they do love
Obviously, things do not work out well.
The whole style of the film is strange. Virtually all of it is narration, which is then developed in a few conversations or, and for the most part, shown and illustrated through what we see occur. It is also rather on the surreal side. I don't mean melting watches or anything, just, well surreal.
And I really liked it. The detached position the audience is placed in by not being able to engage with any of the characters except through the letters Dick writes/narrates. And the very fact that we're never quite sure what the film is about. Is it anti-gun, or just anti the culture that seems to love guns and violence yet wants to hide it away? Or is it a praise of their idealism? And lets not forget the humour. If you can't laugh at this film I don't think you'll enjoy it.
Thomas Vinterberg has finally reemerged from the disaster that was "It's all about love", and with help from compatriot Lars Von Trier he has delivered a hugely original and entertaining film. The story evolves around Dick - a small town loser who feels confident by holding a gun. Seeing this, he creates a group "the Dandies" of fellow gun-fanatics. Violent as it may seem, the point of the group is pacifism - to obsess with guns, but NOT TO USE THEM. Yet when ex-criminal Sebastian joins the group tensions emerge, and Dicks ego and his gun-obsession becomes a deadly cocktail. The story is absolutely outrageous, but Vinterberg, realizing this, gives the film a warped, almost giddy, feel. This actually complements Von Trier's screenplay better than the latter's ultra-realistic style, and prevents the film from becoming moralizing. The only real drawback of the story is the slow start and the dialog, which at times has difficulty hiding the fact that it has, in fact, been translated from Danish into English. Nevertheless, a strong comeback for Vinterberg - let's hope he can do some more serious stuff as well.
While the cinematography was very pleasing to the eyes and the young actors did a commendable job, the story itself leaves something to be desired. Though it starts out with an interesting concept, Dear Wendy winds its way into a ridiculous hole. The "twists" are random and unfounded, probably there for the sole reason of providing conflict. Also, the movie tends to be sluggish: watching for an hour feels like two or three. On the positive side, the young actors did a very good job (for the most part). At times dramatic pauses cause more laughter than thought, but that's difficult to avoid with the script. Eye-catching camera angles were used, along with some interesting techniques. To sum up, the director, cinematographer, and actors are probably usually amazing at their jobs; however, if they enjoy their careers they should stay away from writing like this.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I found this film like a year ago or so and mostly I wanted to watch it
just because Lars von Trier wrote it. I'm not his biggest fan (and I
hate the way he treats actresses) but by then I had just watched
Manderlay (a film that I loved) and Dear Wendy looked extremely
interesting, even with the title that it has in my country (it is
called "Calles Peligrosas", that means something like "Dangerous
Streets", and for a fact the terrific Martin Scorsese 1973 film Mean
Streets has the exact same title in my country!). Anyway, like a year
ago I saw it and I really liked it, yesterday I saw it again and I
still liked it a lot, I think even more. First of all it is quite
entertaining and even exiting since it features the creation of
something new that for their creators is the way to spend their days
and with that the way to live. Is like a very known subject, the fact
that some persons in the same "situation" find in their club a new
world that nobody else will understand. However this is a work of Lars
von Trier and yes it can be seen as the bastard project of his "USA:
Land of Opportunity" trilogy.
Here we have Dick (Jamie Bell) as the main character. In the town where he lives if you don't work at the mine you will be seeing as a loser. Dick is alone but soon he will find a friend, a friend that will make closer his relationship with Stevie (Mark Webber) and later with some others that, like him, feel that they are losers. That mentioned friend is a gun and Dick will call it Wendy. Dick bought it thinking that it was a toy gun and not even for him, he is a pacifist, but as a present for a boy who was not his fried at all. Call it destiny or whatever but that gun never left Dick and eventually he found that was not a toy, it was one of the things that make the world an evil place, one of those that he hated. Everything started mostly just like a game for two friends, a secret game that soon became like the thing they were waiting all the day for. They became experts on the subject and with the "power" of knowing that they were carrying a gun they felt happiness and since they were so damn generous and were concern about others like them they decided to share their experiences with other three persons (Chris Owen, Alison Pill and Michael Angarano) to be now The Dandies. Pacifists in love with guns, well that's what this film shows, a bunch of young and intelligent persons that became even brilliant in what they were doing, these persons were living in their own little world with their own rules and rituals and since they were pacifists everything seems to be just a game and seems that these kids knew what they were doing. Eventually they will be part again of the world with the character Sebastian (Danso Gordon). Sebastian killed a person and needs to have like a guard so the office Krugsby (Bill Pullman) give that "mission" to Dick. Is quite interesting since Sebastian is an unarmed criminal who wants a cure. Dick and pals are armed decent persons and here we have the classic fight in order to be the leader with both Dick and Sebastian but finally the important issue is the fact that in the end there's a fight with everyone armed. The Dandies wanted a good thing but they were armed and violence makes only more violence. Sure in their world they had their own believes and sure they were pacifist but everything was turned around the guns so is the time of the season for loving...
A very strange photography and great performances; I hated Billy Eliot but here Bell is great as the main role as that lonely kid that began having even an obsession, a madness that after all ended in the only possible way he would like to and that resume everything, what a gun could made in him, in his mind. Dear Wendy is definitely an overlooked little gem that I would like to recommend. And the Zombies all around with She's Not There and Time of the Seasons obviously. Fantastic!
Well no one told me about her the way she lied Well no one told me about her how many people cried But it's too late to say you're sorry How would I know why should I care Please don't bother trying' to find her She's not there
Well let me tell you 'bout the way she looked The way she'd act and the colour of her hair Her voice was soft and cool Her eyes were clear and bright But she's not there
Well no one told me about her, what could I do Well no one told me about her, though they all knew But it's too late to say you're sorry How would I know, why should I care Please don't bother trying' to find her She's not there
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