Dogville (2003)

(On DVD, September 2016) There are many reasons that would explain me hating Dogville. It’s almost ludicrously long. It’s got an extremely pessimistic view of human nature. It plays games with the notion of traditional filmmaking by simplifying the sets to a chalk outline … wait, that’s actually something I like about the movie. In fact, it’s probably the reason why I feel curiously positive about it. From the very first shot, in which an entire small town is depicted as chalk outlines on a theatre stage and characters act against minimal props meant to symbolize their surroundings, Dogville goes meta even as it presents a story that doesn’t rely all that much on this abstraction. It’s fascinating for a few minutes, then intermittently interesting as the movie occasionally tries to use this limitation to work around conventional sequences. There is a lot of narration, some of it intrusive in the manner of a classic novel. Various high-profile actors (notably Nicole Kidman, who plays a punching back for half the film, but also Paul Bettany, Stellan Skarsgård and narrator John Hurt) are puppets in writer/director Lars von Trier’s hands as he presents a lengthy and cynical take on human nature, filled with ordinary townspeople turning abusive toward a designated victim. It’s horrifying to the point where the violent take-no-prisoners finale feels satisfying to a ghoulish degree. While not appealing to the angels of our better nature, Dogville does earn a few points for style … even though this may not be a film to be watched a second time.

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