Director: Lars von Trier
Writer: Lars von Trier
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Lauren Bacall, Paul Bettany, James Caan, Philip Baker Hall, John Hurt
Runtime: 178 minutes
Rating: 70% Fresh
Views: 1st Viewing
Wow. I can’t say that I went into Dogville knowing what to expect, but I left the film with an odd sense of joy, despite what the film is actually about. Dogville is a very new, fresh, experimental film that will turn away many viewers simply because of how different it really is. The brilliance of Lars von Trier’s writing shines throughout the film, and shows that his vision isn’t just a cute gimmick. Dogville is a minimalist film shot on a soundstage, with little-to-no sets to speak of. There are a few doors, there are a few windows, but that’s all that makes up the small town of the same name. The sets are traced on the stage, creating something even more unique and minimal than a stage play.
Dogville is about Grace Margaret Mulligan (played wonderfully by Nicole Kidman), and the titular town she runs to in order to hide from gangsters who are pursuing her. She is first greeted by Tom (Paul Bettany), who proceeds to show her around the town and to introduce her to its various occupants. The townsfolk eventually decide to vote on whether or not they should harbour Grace in their peaceful village. Grace is given a two-week trial period in which she is to help each household with various everyday tasks, and to try to win over the reluctant settlers. After a unanimously positive vote, Grace is allowed to stay in the town and continues working for each household. She soon comes to find out that Dogville’s inhabitants may be more sinister than she initially suspected, and must find a way to leave the town.
Lars von Trier’s unique and visionary film is unlike anything ever captured on celluloid (or digital, in this case). It features a cast full of famous faces including the legendary Lauren Bacall, James Caan, Philip Baker Hall, John Hurt as the narrator of the story, Chloe Sivigny, and Stellan Skarsgard. The large cast of odd characters in the film interact perfectly with each other, with Nicole Kidman’s Grace, and with the unique set they’re giving to work with. von Trier never makes the lack of sets or unique storytelling seem like a gimmick, and that is a massive benefit to the film. The increasingly dark and disturbing script is told in 9 chapters (with a prologue), through a near 3-hour runtime, but Dogville never once seems overly-long. John Hurt’s narration is brilliant, and never feels intrusive as narration sometimes can. The direction, amazing cinematography (especially for what the film actually has to work with), and incredible ensemble cast makes Dogville a truly unique and unforgettable film, and one that I recommend to anybody who thinks they’ve seen it all in the world of film. 9/10.