Ok, so a little late to the party. But better late than never.
Stark. Barren. Cold. These are just a few of the adjectives that jump to mind when describing "Dogville", a film that explores the depths of human depravity. A city girl gets chased by the mob into a small rural town, and seeks refuge. What follows is one of the most unpleasant and bleak examinations of humanity that I've seen on film. Director Lars von Trier seems to revel in stripping away any visual pleasure from the viewer. This is a movie about suffering and misfortune and he doesn't want you to be comfortable while watching it.
From the beautiful opening overhead shot looking down into Dogville, you know this is not going to be an ordinary film. The entire world that is shown is this town called Dogville. The 'town' is simply a stage with primitive lines and sparse props as a rudimentary mockup of what resembles a town. Every person in Dogville is known, plays a part in the story and can usually be seen at all times during the entire film. No one can hide. Everything is open. A theme which von Trier repeatedly comes back to. This is a visually stagnant film. There is no reprieve for the viewer from the hell in which Grace(Nicole Kidman) can't escape. We are forced to focus on the acting, the suffering, the characters, rather than any visual eye candy. It is an effective technique. When stripped right down we can see the characters for who they are without distractions from clever camera techniques and dynamic lighting.
This is not an uplifting film. It shows humanity in the worse possible light. Evil and debauchery can arise anywhere, and no person is above stooping to incredible lows. The film takes its time with this theme. It does eventually pay off, with an incredibly affecting climax, but it doesn't make the journey any more pleasant. In fact, I hated this movie while I was watching it. It took all I had in me not to shut it off. I hated all the characters. I couldn't understand why they made the choices they did. I was frustrated, angry and impatient. However by the time it ended, I couldn't help but let a smile creep on my face, I had been reeled in. It had worked. This movie has a message, and it is delivered effectively, even if it is by means of an unconventional mechanism. I have a hard time recommending this movie as it is so unpleasant to watch. And yet, having had time to reflect upon it, I look at it more fondly since it has stuck with me. The acting is great. The actors rely on nothing but their acting and it carries the film. I have no interest in ever revisiting the film, but I am glad that I have watched it. Sometimes the harder the pill is to swallow the more effective it is.Rating:
Thanks Ned for dictating this to me. Not going to lie. I was kind of hating you while watching it, but I ended up being thankful. I took a lot away from the experience and couldn't stop talking about it for awhile after seeing it. I actually had to retell the entire movie, scene by scene to a friend to help me digest it. Immediately after viewing this I still didn't like it. It took a lot of reflection to appreciate what I saw. So thanks for forcing this one on me. I would have never have watched it otherwise.