Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Finished watching the film Dogville today. With 3 hour films and babies crying and so forth I find it easier to break these things up. Also gives me a chance to reflect on things a bit. This film is almost universally condemned as a piece of anti-american propaganda by an ameriphobic Danish writer/director (Lars von Trier). Just look up Ebert's review, or most of the comments on imdb. I'm not linking them because I think they all missed the mark really badly. While the setting is a tiny rocky mountain town, and there is a 4th of July celebration in the middle of the film, it is really a Christ story, though arguably one with some seriously flawed theology, depending on how one interprets things. SPOILERS AHEAD

The sequence of events shows a young woman named Grace (Nicole Kidman), appernetly recently escaped from some involvement with gangsters and seeking refuge in Dogville. She offers to work for the residents in exchange for their goodwill and hospitality and some meager wages. They are eventually convinced by Tom (Paul Bettany) to accept this. Before long, though, she is the object of sexual advances by all the males in town, and the object of scorn of all the females. After a failed attempt to escape, she is chained to a heavy iron wheel and still made to work without any wages. Through all of this, while recognizing the evils being done, she is always ready to forgive and move forward. However, her one "friend", Tom, betrays her to the gangsters out of anger that he is the only one denied her sexual favors (being the town moralist, he is unwilling to rape her, like the others).

When the gangsters arrive, we learn that the boss is in fact her father. He offers to kill everyone for her. She resists this idea, saying that the people are only acting according to their nature. After further discussion with her father and one last conversation with Tom, she agrees to have the town burnt down and the people killed.

For those accustomed to more realist films, Dogville seems by turns evil and finally vindictive. However, there is nothing realist about this film. The whole film is performed on a stage with only chalk outlines for buildings, thus allowing us to see the activities of the people inside their homes, etc. Even the town dog, Moses, is a chalk outline.

The only comment I've seen so far that seemed anywhere near the mark was one on imdb which compared it to the story of Lot, which seemed at least partially appropriate. There was like Sodom, not one soul found righteous. When confronted with Grace, they all rejected her, and thus were subjected to the wrath of God and his angels (most of the killing and burning was done by the thugs).

Anyone else seen this yet and have a comment?

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