International Irish Film Festival
"Dogville" at the Irish Film Institute, Dublin
(by Laurence Borgmann)
Whether you loved the film or fell asleep during the three hours
- I think the film Dogville left none of our group indifferent.
The programme had already promised an unusual experience:
"Like some perverse digital video cousin of Thornton Wilder's
famous play Our Town, it comes on like a slice of classic Americana,
set during the Great Depression, where the good folks of Dogville
are just about getting by, until the arrival of a fugitive stranger
Grace (Nicole Kidman) changes everything"
This arrival starts the shocking portrait of the small God-fearing
community of Dogville. As Grace depends on the charity of the town
people the price she has to pay for their hospitality rises to obscene
heights and she is turned into a kind of slave of the little town.
Lars von Trier uses a video-like moving camera and a film set which
reminded me of some experimental Peter Brook plays which I watched
in London in the eighties. To call the set minimalistic would not
be exaggerated as the scene and props are mostly inexistent and
are cleverly represented by lines on the floor and writing on the
floor. Instead of a real dog we see the contours of a dog with the
word DOG next to it - however, we do hear the barking. The film
is segmented in chapters that tell us in advance what is going to
happen in this section, much like in the early English novels I
remember from my literature classes.
Exploitation of people in need is the main topic and the self-righteousness
with which this exploitation of Grace is explained away by the inhabitants
of Dogville. Personally, I found the plot very moving and the style
spectacularly different from anything I had seen in cinema before.
The others in the group were a lot less enthusiastic and found it
far too long and weird. In any case it was an interesting experience.
The programme had promised:
"You'll be arguing about this brilliant, blistering piece
of filmmaking for weeks afterwards. Miss it and miss out."