Manderlay (2005)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama  |  3 June 2005 (Denmark)
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 17,985 users   Metascore: 46/100
Reviews: 81 user | 140 critic | 29 from

A story of slavery, set in the southern U.S. in the 1930s.


(as Lars Von Trier)


(as Lars Von Trier)
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Geoffrey Bateman ...
Ruben Brinkman ...
Doña Croll ...
Venus (as Dona Croll)
Llewella Gideon ...
Mona Hammond ...
Old Wilma


After gangster Mulligan's cars colony, fleeing northern justice, finds a hiding place in Alabama, spoiled, naive daughter Grace refuses to travel on after seeing the Manderlay cotton plantation being run under slavery rules, called Mam's law, inclusive flogging. She keeps half of dad's goons as guard to force the dying matriarch-owner's heirs, which she shamelessly dispossesses and reduces to 'staff', to taste destitution under absurd, gun-imposed contracts. The 'slaves' are made free partners, supposed to vote for progress after lessons from Grace. But almost all her democracy-pupils prove fickle, dumb and selfish, except old Willem. Her and their ignorance in Southern planting and crafty Dixie ways means more problems are created then solved. By the time dad returns to pick her up or abandon her for good, she's the one who has learned and changed the most. Written by KGF Vissers

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A case of mistaken identity See more »




Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:




Release Date:

3 June 2005 (Denmark)  »

Also Known As:

The Film 'Manderlay' as Told in Eight Straight Chapters  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$14,200,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$15,117 (USA) (27 January 2006)


$74,205 (USA) (17 March 2006)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


John C. Reilly was originally signed to play Dr. Hector but was replaced by Slovenian actor Zeljko Ivanek during production. A donkey was put to death while filming, and it was reported in US magazine Entertainment Weekly that this was what prompted Reilly to walk off the set, though he has never commented publicly on the incident or his exact reasons for leaving the film. The executive producer Peter Aalbæk Jensen told Swedish media that "people should not be upset - instead they should think about the situation of the Third World". Since the movie was filmed in Sweden, they followed Swedish law, which says that animals can be put to death in movie productions if a veterinarian is the one carrying out the killing. Director Lars von Trier later cut the scene from the film, which was attributed to protests from animal rights groups. Von Trier said that he didn't want to draw attention away from the content of the film. See more »


[first lines]
Narrator: It was in the year of 1933, when Grace and her father were heading southward with their army of gangsters.
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Crazy Credits

Closing dedication: In Memory Of Humbert Balsan 21.08.1954 - 10.02.2005 See more »


Featured in The Road to Manderlay (2005) See more »


Young Americans
Written and Performed by David Bowie
Courtesy of RZO Music, Inc.
Published by Chrysalis Music Limited
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User Reviews

Imperialism Interpretation
22 May 2006 | by (Portland, OR) – See all my reviews

I've only seen the film once, but I felt that the most consistent interpretation was strictly about arrogant imperialism. I found myself first seeing through a very direct lens of a slave narrative/American liberal white guilt. This is an easy interpretation that lives on the surface.

The film then transformed into a statement about the presumption that "we" can teach others how to govern when "they" may have a system that works better in their context. The system in Manderlay was not overseer/slave, the system was socialism/communism and each "slave," as Grace saw them, had his or her own specialized role. The inhabitants of Manderlay were free within their system, but Grace was so completely blinded by what her culture had taught her about "freedom" and "democracy" and the inferiority of all other ways of life. The democracy she implemented was a complete farce. Their society did not function when the arrogant outsider who thought she knew what was best for them began implementing her system with force. The most direct comparison is "operation iraqi freedom" and other US nation building exercises or sponsored coups.

I found many other characters to be representations of a global system of oppression. The card shark was an international lending institution like the World Bank or the IMF and the "prince" was a corrupt leader who sold out his people for a cut of the profits of the international business elites (like Marcos, Suharto, or seemingly countless others).

I was very pleased with Manderlay and thoroughly frustrated by simplistic the reviews I read of it. I feel that this film falls apart with a straightforward viewing. As a white guilt slave narrative the film is mediocre. As commentary on imperialism and an absolutely corrupt global system, the film is a wonderful composition. I can't wait for Wasington.

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