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Von Trier's DOGVILLE

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Kristoffer, Jun 16, 2003.

  1. Kristoffer

    Kristoffer Well-Known Member

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    Okay just saw this in Denmark, tonight. What can I say? It's a masterpiece, that stays in your head a long time after...especially the climatic ending

    Its about the small town in America called Dogville. Here a young girl named Grace ( Kidman ) seeks refurge from some gangsters. Now to be able to stay she has to work for the people in the town. From here on it is just a moral decline for the citizen of Dogville....
    The special "thing" about the movie is that there are no sets. Everything is drawn with a white line on the black floor to illustrate the houses of the town. The dog is drawn, but barks like a dog. The sun is a lamp and so is the moon. This sounds wired but it works and the actor's really shine! Nicole Kidman, Lauren Bacall, and the tv presenter from Magnolia ( forgot his name..)
    The film is told with a voice-over and is divided into chapters. This combined with Moral questions makes this feel a little like a Kubrick film.
    The music is very good and makes the seem very Epic even thiug it isn't!!
    The other good thing about this film is that is doesn't use its sounds, lighting and cameras to manipulate you into feeling something. This a small problem in Dancer in the dark in my opinion! Here the people and actor's makes you feel.
    This is the first film in a trilogy.
    Go see it when it comes out in your countries respectably.
    Kris
     
  2. Kristoffer

    Kristoffer Well-Known Member

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    What happend to all the replys??
     
  3. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Well-Known Member

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    Must be lost in the freaking database crash. Even my question post is gone too. That sucks.
     
  4. Guy_K

    Guy_K Well-Known Member

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    Does this have a tragic ending like Dancer in the Dark?
     
  5. Jean-Michel

    Jean-Michel Well-Known Member

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    It doesn't end like Dancer in the Dark (or Breaking the Waves). I don't know if the ending is "tragic" or not. Could go either way depending on how it's handled -- I haven't seen it, but I had the ending SPOILED for me by a newspaper article [​IMG]
     
  6. Kristoffer

    Kristoffer Well-Known Member

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    It's more shocking than tragic actually...
     
  7. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Well-Known Member

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    Kristoffer,

    back to my Caligari question that was lost along with everything else. Have you seen Cabient of Dr. Caligari and if so then how do you compare the art direction in the two films since it sounds like the methods are at least similar?
     
  8. Kristoffer

    Kristoffer Well-Known Member

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    Sorry I am not familar with it.
     
  9. Matt_P

    Matt_P Well-Known Member

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    I thought I'd resurrect this thread, and try to get some new discussion going.

    I had the pleasure of seeing this film in Copenhagen a few months ago. It is definately astounding--an exhausting near 3 hour ride through the depths of human failings and the decline of morality that results.
    The performances are what make this film so powerful. Von Trier, in a style that is technically non-Dogma, yet extremely Dogma, strips the film of the visual distractions of sets and creates a unique, sterile stage environment that can be completely controlled (some may actually find this more distracting than acutal sets), and characters can be allowed to flourish. However, this choice becomes acceptable and invisible to the viewer when one gets into the story. A powerful, must see film when it hits the US in 2004.

    I also got to be a fly on the wall during a casual meeting between Von Trier and some colleagues at the National Museum in Copenhagen. They were in a public eating area, discussing something in Danish, and looking at what appeared to be storyboards. I didn't get to meet him, but it was pretty neat to see.

    BTW, the production design is not angular and abstract like Warm's designs in Caligari. There are fragments of buildings and furniture, but basically, design is minimal. It's simply a black stage with labels and outlines on the floor.
     
  10. Brook K

    Brook K Well-Known Member

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    Continues to be highly anticipated by me, but I've heard Lion's Gate is going to slash the US release by something like 40m. A DVD has just come available from Denmark, so I may have to go that route.
     
  11. Nick C.

    Nick C. Well-Known Member

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    one thing I noted was odd, as Matt mentions, was how it seemed Dogme 95 was abandoned to various degrees in this flick, from the staged sets, to the external sound, narration, lighting, yet because of the minimalism, the focus was drawn towards the characters and their psychology, so I'd guess end justifies the means in achieving Dogme objectives. the length really allowed time for the moral decay
    to properly develop

    agreed with Kristoffer, pretty spectacular acting all the way through, and not showy at all--Kidman's role as pauper was remarkably reminescent of that in 'The Human Stain'

    I recall in recent interviews Kidman has no plans of participating in the rest of the trilogy, that the Cannes press briefing agreement was in jest
     
  12. Matt_P

    Matt_P Well-Known Member

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    Well put, Nick.

    I hope Lions Gate is not cutting the film!!!! WHY?!!?!
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    That would be a tragedy, pure and simple.

    If they do, let's hope the Region 1 dvd will have the complete cut.
     
  13. Randall Dorr

    Randall Dorr Well-Known Member

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  14. Matt_P

    Matt_P Well-Known Member

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    Randall,

    True, they never agreed to make Dogma films exclusively, but it's interesting that many of the originators of the Dogma95 movement seem to not make many Dogma films.

    Also, you're correct in saying Dogville was never meant to be a Dogma film, but I thought it was very interesting how it was able to accomplish the mission/goals of the Dogma movement by using completely different means.

    BTW, your cursing is warranted in this case.
     
  15. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Well-Known Member

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    (spoiler free, as always...no plot details)
    (Korean DVD, looked and sounded great, haven't checked disc 2 yet)

    Dogville
    9.5 of 10
    (the .5 might be for some of the acting early on and is subject to revision [​IMG] )

    Von Trier is a true master filmmaker of the best sense. Not because every film he makes is my favorite or makes me feel good. In fact he often seems to push the abuse of his female leads far into excess for the sake of some holy sacrifice theme of forgiveness or human immorality.

    What makes him great is his ability to constantly challenge both himself and the audience. And with Dogville he has even challenged the actors with a minimalist set that would even shame a summer stock company in how little has been done.

    But the little that has been done has been chosen with great care and is used to great effect, even if early in the film you might find yourself wondering. At times the actors are incapable of rising to the challenge, even Bettany and certainly Chloe Sevigny (which surprised me). The vets like Bacall and PBHall manage but it is clearly a tougher assignment than normal.

    However, the minute Kidman hits the screen that mood goes out the window. She nails every second of it in an effort that I would call her very best, as well as worthy of a 2nd Best Actress Oscar (we shall see). The rest of the cast follows suit and feeds off of her, improving a great deal in her presence. James Caan is the other cast member who made a real mark on me despite having a smaller role. It is the dialog he is giving, the importance of it, and his outstanding delivery that made a mark on me. I'd certainly like to hear his name, as well as Bettany's when Oscar 2004 discussion gets going.

    Apart from the acting is the art direction. Minimal yes, but creative and interesting in its design. It is at first a distraction and later powerfully effective in setting mood. It will put off regular viewers who expect millions in set design from their $8 admission, but this is high art at its best, not just cost cutting. I had asked about a comparison to Caligari and it is both accurate and inaccurate since the sets are not distorted, merely artificial and minimal.

    Finally comes the use of this set and these actors. Von Trier begins by taking us to familiar places. He has taken the book chapters approach before, a definite theme in how he approaches his films. Literal chapter stops with titles occur here similar to Breaking the Waves, but more than that is a narrator giving us an even stronger "literature on film" sense to what we are watching. Some might object, but I embrace LVT's career long-theme in this case. It has consistency in its use and effect.

    He also has outstanding camera movement and shot selection throughout the film. At one point we see Kidman laying underneath a canvas cover that becomes velvety transparent as we look at her. She is framed in a very consciously artistic manner that clearly excedes any Dogme sensibilities LVT might have. He challenges himself with those restrictions, but he also is not afraid to push beyond them in creative ways.


    Finally comes the standard LVT theme, the female lead that is put upon, humiliated, etc. What surprised me with Dogville was that LVT has challenged this theme, questioning the moral reasoning that lies behind it. Rather than rehashing Breaking the Waves or Dancer in the Dark, here LVT almost challenges the themes of those films, going as far as to question some of the ideals that seem to have been presented in those earlier works. Perhaps it is that challenge that kept Dogville from winning the big prize at Cannes, perhaps the film is too "American" because it refuses to follow the same lines as some of his previous films.

    None-the-less, Dogville's 2nd half, especially its final act, does excite, incite, provoke and challenge the viewer. It also takes us to new thematic ground for LVT proving that he will not be satisfied in remaining in the same place for long as a filmmaker.

    Brilliant filmmaking, challenging viewing (as always).
     
  16. Shane Gralaw

    Shane Gralaw Well-Known Member

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    This is probably going to have some spoilers, so please don't read it if you haven't seen the film!!!!!!

    ************************************************** **



    Ok, I absolutely am not a Von Trier fan. I actively hated most of his films and only had respect for the technical brillance of Element of Crime. So when I heard the plot descriptions and the Cannes underwhelment, I was prepared for a total pretentious crapfest.

    Boy was I ever wrong.

    I would agree with the above poster that Cloe Sevigny is surprisingly not on target, she overplays some line readings like a high school drama student. But everyone else is absolutely fantastic (I know Shibone Fallon- sp.? was an ex-SNLer, but it is surprising to see her in Von Trier's films, she was spot-on, too btw). Paul Bettany is certainly headed for the A-list and Kidman proves why she is already there. Her performance was a lot more compelling than in The Hours, and far more deserving of an Oscar nom, at least.

    The minimalist set design is brilliantly used. It is never boring to look at, at makes some of the scenes where Grace is humiliated and violated far more devastating, the other townspeople are behind their invisible "walls" but come off as passive bystanders and thus more culpable in their eventual fates.

    As for the plot, unlike some of the relentless torture LVT seems to inflict on his heroines with (debatably) little more real reason than to see them suffer and offer more pathos, the horror of Grace's situation grows more organically from the fears, pettiness, weakness, and apathy of the citizens of Dogville. But that is not to say that Grace suffers any less. I loved how the physical contact escalates until any citizen feels he can swat, slap, and poke (and worse) at Grace as if she were not human, but an object- simply because she is not one of them. The rape scenes were absolutely chilling to watch, especially after everyone in Dogville realizes what is happening but couldn't care less. But even the smashing of the figurines is horrible and the eventual "payoff" of the "debt" by Grace one of the most emotional moments I have seen recently in film. The audience is torn, they understand why Grace does it and it is certainly dramatically effective and correct, but the horror of the actual act... wow!

    I finally am starting to like LVT. My dogged persistence(couldn't resist) in watching his films has finally paid off!!
     
  17. Jeff Adkins

    Jeff Adkins Well-Known Member

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    BTW, just to clear things up here, Lions Gate isn't cutting the film. My understanding was that Miramax wanted to purchase it and cut it, but Lions Gate agreed to release the full 178 minute version. I'm positive I read this not too long ago.

    Jeff
     
  18. Paul Chi

    Paul Chi Well-Known Member

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    Ive been waiting forever to see this film. When will it be released in the states? And I hear that Nicole Kidman gives an amazing performance that might get nominated for another best actress Oscar.
     
  19. Matt_P

    Matt_P Well-Known Member

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    I know it's finally being released locally in April.

    This is a must see!
     
  20. Haggai

    Haggai Well-Known Member

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    OK, I just got back from seeing this, it opened tonight in the local cinematech. I don't feel like using spoiler tags, so WARNING--MASSIVE SPOILERS ARE ABOUT TO HAPPEN (can we make this the official discussion thread? It's the only one that came up on the search I did).

    Random thoughts--very strong final twist, and awesome work by Kidman, it's all the more powerful at the end because she's kept it all so close to the vest from the beginning. Although I was never really bored, I have to say that it didn't need to be three hours long.

    My main complaint: killing the kids on camera. Bad shit, I don't think there's ever a justification for showing that. In the famous Hitchcock/Truffaut interview book from the '60s, which I read a couple of months ago, Truffaut said that killing a kid on-screen was very close to "an abuse of cinematic power," which I wholeheartedly agree with. When Grace gives the order to kill the kids while the mother watches, because "I owe her that," it's a real body-blow to the viewer, both because of the twist from the lines just before it (when Grace remembers the kids, you think for a second that she's going to spare them, but no, she suddenly ratchets up the cruelty!), and because you feel the simultaneous guilt/pleasure that Von Trier is so clearly going for. You like seeing Grace empowered to such an extent, and you know that the townspeople deserve to suffer for what they've done to her, but it's still so horrible that it can't be justified, as much as Grace tries to do that. For me, this was a very effective "viewer guilt" moment, and I was totally into it. BUT, when the kids actually get blown away on-screen, it's just abject "viewer punishment," and that's bad. Challenge me, excite me as you horrify me at the same time, it's all good. But don't rub it in my face.

    OK, back to some good things--James Caan, awesome casting! I was all, "holy crap, it's Sonny Corleone, risen from the grave!" And the scenes where Tom really starts to sell Grace out, wow, strong stuff. I don't know if this is exactly what Von Trier was going for, but for me, it was all about the idea that people who allow evil to happen, by failing to oppose it when they can, or by actively condoing it, etc., are sometimes even more reprehensible than those who are the instigators of that evil in the first place. At least you know what to expect from the straight-up bad guys; there's no sense of betrayal or dashed hopes.

    Back to the ending: I went into this movie unspoiled, and you know what was the moment when I realized how it was going to end? Just before Grace gets back in the car and talks it out with her dad (with the dialogue that leads up to it, "do I have the power now," "what if someone else comes along to this place," "if there's one town that the world would be better off without it's this one"), there's a slow zoom-in on her face as she looks around at the town, and THAT'S when it hit me: she's gonna kill 'em all! The cinematic language of that slow zoom-in, signifying a sudden realization/major decision on the character's part, totally grabbed me and gave me the twist, all right there on her face. A good moment in movie fandom for me. [​IMG]

    And, just as the killing started, someone in the audience got up and stormed out, saying "this is disgusting" or something like that. Man, you sit through two hours and fifty-five minutes, and then you walk out on the last five? My immediate reaction was, "Von Trier would LOVE IT if he could see this happening!" Hehe, that sadistic bastard. [​IMG]
     

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