A daring, inventive filmmaker, von Trier exhibits the imagination of an artist and the irritability of a pedant in "Dogville." It's set in the Rocky Mountains in the Great Depression, but we look down on the floor of a large sound stage, with residents' houses marked by chalk outlines. There are few props - desks, chairs, beds. We never leave the set or see beyond it; in the background on all sides is only darkness.((The idea is like "Our Town," but could be "Hell." In his parable of America, the citizens are xenophobic, vindictive, jealous, suspicious, and capable of rape and murder. He so dislikes the United States (which he has never visited) that he goes beyond criticism into derangement. Anyone can justifiably make a fantasy, even an anti-American fantasy, as a good film, but von Trier here abandons all subtlety.((Nicole Kidman is Grace, a young woman fleeing to Dogville from gangsters, who seem to represent native American fascists. Greeted by Tom Edison (Bettany), an earnest young man, she lets him persuade his neighbors to give her two weeks before deciding if she may stay in town. She meets, among other citizens and children, Tom's dad, the doctor (Hall); Skarsgard, who grows apples and owns a truck; Clarkson, his wife; Gazzara, an all-seeing blind man; Bacall runs the general store; Raymond and Brown are parents of Davies and Sevigny. James Caan turns up in a long black limousine at the end as the gangster.((Von Trier is bent on showing Americans aren't friendly, distrust outsiders, kowtow to authority, are inherently violent, etc., all of which is both true and untrue. Our big country has a lot of different people. We don't, however, have villages where a helpless woman visitor would be chained to a bed and raped by every man in town.((The players move in a kind of trance, talk flatly, recite truisms rather than speak, and seem to sense the film's inevitable end. In von Trier's apocalyptic mind-set, nothing but general destruction could end the story. Life in Dogville clearly can't continue; the Dogvillians would probably go mad.((Lars von Trier's fierce determination has to acknowledge that a film needs an audience. "Dogville" can be defended, or praised, on ideological grounds, but even sophisticated moviegoers with open minds will find it a dry, unsatisfactory movie in which conceits masquerade as ideas.
Lars von Trier
Lars von Trier
Nichole Kidman, Paul Bettany, James Caan, Patricia Clarkson, Jeremy Davies, Ben Gazzara,
Rocky Mountains; Great Depression; a woman running from a ga
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