Friday, November 26, 2004


I wrote this up right after I saw the movie Dogville. There are spoilers below, so if you haven't seen the movie, see it. If you have, read on.

I completely loved the film, both story-wise and production wise. The stage setting was a gimmick, but it wasn't gimmicky, in the negative sense of the word, as in, just relying on something outlandish as a way to get the audience interested, it worked in the way that the best Buffy "gimmick" episodes worked, using the style as a means of exploring the story and characters. I don't think the movie would have worked had it not been set on a stage. It made the town feel much smaller, and increased the feeling of paranoia as the movie went on. The rape scene was very powerful, and different, because of the gimmick. The shot towards the end, when Grace is in her house, the rest of the town is meeting, and Tom is outside, was brilliant, because we were able to see the choice he has to make, and the community vs. individual theme was driven home.

Some of it was a bit questionable, like using the drawings of gooseberry bushes, and the drawing of the dog, but the acting made it feel real. I think the stage setting also gave it a timeless feel, rather than the more cliched period small town setting.

I thought the story was powerful, and a great depiction of what power does to people. When the people of Dogville, so used to the status quo, are given the opportunity to control someone, they become monsters, which is paralleled at the end when Grace, finally given the opportunity to take revenge, destroys everyone. It was a really simple story, but just told very well.

Despite being three hours for a relatively simple story, I didn't feel like any scene was unneccessary. They all added something to the story, and that's largely because of the performances. This was probably Nicole Kidman's best performance, and she was heartbreaking, as well as astonishingly beautiful. The rest of the cast was great as well, completely inhabiting the roles. Patricia Clarkson was particularly impressive, since I'd just been watching Six Feet Under season two, where she plays a role that's essentially the opposite of who she is here.

I loved the ending of the movie. The fact that he just broke out 30s style gangsters, with tommy guns and fedoras, was impressive. And then the brutal killing of the entire town. The scene where the children are killed, to parallel the smashing of the figurines was particularly notable.

That's not to say it was a perfect movie. I feel like having the entire town raping her was a bit excessive, and it really bothered me that she didn't try to defend herself or even get Tom to stay with her and stop them. The end of the movie she does fight back, but I found it odd that at the time she didn't try to do anything. Also, the DV style worked most of the time, but sometimes, the wandering shots and odd framing got annoying and distracted from things. Though, I did love the use of jump cuts.

Overall though, I thought it was spectacular. The stage thing kept the focus on the plot and characters, and really made the film work. I hated Dancer in the Dark, but this film redeemed Von Trier for me. And, I don't really see it as anti-American. It's more anti-human if anything.

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Review Revue (Breaking the Waves) (5/25/2005)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice review. Although I have to disagree with you on one point. You said you found it odd that Grace didn't try to do anything even though she was constantly abused. I think that was the whole point. It was a reference to the christian belief of always "turning the other cheek". She was taken advantage of and still chose to be an optimist. Instead of seeing the thorns in the Goosberry bushes, she only saw sweet fruits.