Movie Review: Dogville
Alternate Title: Unpleasantville
Story: This rave review is going to bring me lots of protest mail, for sure. I loved this film and can't get it out of my head. Danish director Lars Von Trier is great. He is bold, creative, thought provoking, original, explosive and extremely moving.
The setting is a small Rocky Mountain town during the Depression. Von Trier has set the entire film on a sound stage with simple chalk outlines to mark the streets and houses in exposed sets (think 'Our Town'). The story revolves around a woman in trouble who is taken in by a small town and sheltered from those who are chasing her. What ensues (and I can't reveal much to you without being a spoiler) represents the best and the worst of humanity.
It is about the human condition and has universal themes. It could take place anywhere. I think the outcries of Von Trier being anti-American are shallow...and what if he is? It is about arrogance, power, forgiveness, cruelty, revenge and the frightening mindset of a group.
WARNING: This film is NOT for everyone. It is long, 'talky,' at times cruel and you, the viewer must do a little work. There's lots to think about. And even though it goes way over my self imposed two hour Lobo movie length rule AND has a narrator (another usual 'tsk, tsk' from me) I applaud loudly.
Acting: Superb! The ensemble cast worked seamlessly together. Without help from soundtrack, special effects or even flattering lighting they all were stellar.
Nicole Kidmans' cool posterior fit her role as the stranger who comes to town. Her good looks did not get in the way of her performance this time. Paul Bettany, Lauren Bacall, Chloe Sevigny, Philip Baker Hall, James Caan, Ben Gazzara, Stellan Skarsgaard, Jeremy Davies and Patricia Clarkson round out this great film. John Hurt as the narrator has the perfect cynical tone as he introduces each of the nine chapters.
Predilection: I like Lars Van Trier's work.
Critters: One dog (it is Dogville).
Food: Apples, lots of biscuits and grits. It is the depression and food does not seem to be plentiful.
Visual Art: The sound stage outlines and amazing creativity in the cinematography was visual enough.
Blatant Product Placement: None.
Soundtrack: None. There is a powerful David Bowie tune 'Young American' as the end credits role.
Opening Titles: None. There is an explanatory panel of type - period.
Theater Audience: Less people in the theater audience than lived in the small town of Dogville.
Sappy Factor: 0 - No sap from Lars Von Trier...ever!
Quirky Meter: 2 (for staging)
Squirm Scale: 2 - Cruelty makes me squirm
Predictability Level: I figured out what was going to happen about 2/3's of the way through but it did not spoil it for me.
Tissue Usage: 0
Oscar Worthy: Yes
Nit Picking: I will always complain about the length of a film that borders on three hours.
Big Screen or Rental: Big screen, without doubt. Try some of Von Trier's other films: Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark, The Idiots.
Length: Just under three hours - ouch!
LOBO HOWLS: 9 (my first '9' of the year).