Dogville (Denmark/Sweden/France/Norway/Netherlands/Germany/
France/Italy/Japan/USA/UK ; 135 min.)

directed by: Lars von Trier
starring: Nicole Kidman; Harriet Andersson; Lauren Bacall

Bruce says: "Lars von Trier uses a magnifying glass to explore the various institutions of Western culture. He looked closely at how women are subjugated through religion, community and marriage in BREAKING THE WAVES. In DANCER IN THE DARK he achieved the same result with law enforcement, the workplace, and the judicial system all failing the heroine. Now DOGVILLE has arrived, employing a new mix - the workplace, family and community -to illustrate von Trier's point of view.

"DOGVILLE is shot as a stage play. Comparisons to 'Our Town' are inevitable particularly with John Hurt's expert voiceover narration. Unlike viewing a stage play, however, the camera often hovers overhead providing the audience a different perspective. The buildings, streets and shrubbery of Dogville are outlined in chalk similar to chalk outlines policemen draw around dead bodies.

"A Prologue acquaints the viewer with the village of Dogville and its inhabitants. Nine chapters then describe what happens after Grace (Nicole Kidman) arrives in Dogville with a profound aura of mystery. We pretty much know all about the villagers but very little about Grace other than the fact she is a missing woman according to some gangster types who are combing the countryside.

"Before Grace arrives, Tom Edison, Jr. (Paul Bettany) has been leading the town meetings with philosophical meandering and a vagueness that begs for a concrete examples. He is a moral philosopher seeking a 'home ground.' Grace becomes his example. If the town can embrace her without turning her in to the authorities, Tom believes the town's collective moral worth can be evaluated. He persuades even the most obdurate to vote in Grace's favour.

"So Grace becomes the sixteenth adult member of the community. Acceptance is not as simple as all of that. To earn her reprieve, she must work for all the households in Dogville. At first each household claims they need no assistance in the day-to-day tasks. As time passes each and every adult finds plenty for Grace to do. For a while, everyone is happy with this arrangement. But as things go wrong and tensions increase Grace becomes a scapegoat. How all of this happens should not be revealed here, it should be experienced firsthand.

"The cast is a marvelous ensemble. Who ever envisioned Lauren Bacall, Chloe Sevigny, James Caan, Patricia Clarkson, Stellan Skarsgård, Philip Baker Hall, Ben Gazzara and Blair Brown together on one screen?

"Although von Trier consistently uses the victimization of women to illustrate the dark side of human nature, rest assured he is not thematically simplistic, reducing societal ills to mere battles of the sexes. Social ills are a complex lot in the cinematic world of von Trier - where the strong overcome the weak, those in power overwhelm the masses, leaders use propaganda to direct group anger, sophistry triumphs over truth, revenge overrides forgiveness, lust tramples common decency and the search for perfect love is elusive. It is difficult to find a more cynical, more challenging filmmaker. DOGVILLE is a brilliant addition to his portfolio." 5 cats

Diane says [spoilers]: "I was feeling guilty for going to the movies on Good Friday, but DOGVILLE vindicated me. Funny, I was having a convo with my pastor just a few hours before about THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST the scapegoat theory in Christology, and the Left Behind series. That's how I would broadly designate Trier's latest: the scapegoat Jesus [death of an innocent victim] versus the Jesus who looks at people and makes them blow up [from the latest Left Behind installment].

"It's a terribly Christological film. Grace comes to town, seeking refuge. The residents cannot accept Grace. Instead, they shackle her with their sins. In the end, Grace's father comes back and offers to take her back home, where she can share in his power. She tries to defend the people of Dogville, but her father is having none of it. 0nly the dog, who had a _reason_ to act badly toward Grace, is saved.

"Acting and camerawork are very good. I liked the '0ur Town' presentation very much. Since there are no walls to the houses, it becomes clear what we all choose not to see [a rape being committed while the woman's boyfriend saunters a few feet away].

"The movie felt like all of its three hours. While some find DOGVILLE too obvious, I think it gives plenty to chew on. Although Trier chooses an ending that plays for a fool anyone who thinks that humanity is worth saving, the still shots of poverty and killing afterward undercut that for

"I give it 4 cats, but think that Trier has to find a new shtick--enough of this victimization of women."

Ivy says: "I caught this last night at the Brattle. I am so glad I saw it on the big screen! I have felt for years that Von Trier is a talented filmmaker and DOGVILLE just reconfirms this belief.

"It was wonderful to see such an allegorical film, realized with such interesting design choices, and shot beautifully (Von Trier welcome back to film!)

"Emotionally harrowing it's true, but I was so happy for him to present a stronger female character. Grace's role as scapegoat feels more acceptable to me in this metaphorical world. I questioned her choices less unlike the heroines of BREAKING THE WAVES and DANCER IN THE DARK. Plus she isn't *touched* like the other two characters are.

"I haven't gone back to read what you all wrote about the film because I am trying to dash this one out and I promise I will. I definitely think that this film should be considered for an award at the end of the year."

Michael says: "Whew! DOGVILLE is certainly not going to be everyone's cup of tea. In fact, of the five of us who saw the film Monday night, I'd say we each had a different opinion. Surprisingly (?) I think I liked it the best. (Not sure who liked it the least... Rick? Bob? I'm hoping to see at least one other review!)

"DOGVILLE is the latest in Lars von Trier's series of victimization of women films (the first two being BREAKING THE WAVES and DANCER IN THE DARK). Here, our tortured lead actress is Nicole Kidman, luminous in a Christ-like role. On the run from a mysterious past, Grace (Kidman) literally stumbles across the remote mountain town of Dogville. There she meets Tom, the local moral philosopher, who convinces her to stay in town and win the town over so she doesn't have to run anymore.

"The story progresses with Grace agreeing to Tom's plan, and eventually falling in love with the simple life in Dogville. However, the longer she stays, the more the moral injustice and cruelty of the townsfokl comes to the surface. As the film grows darker, and Grace's suffering increases, you may find yourself wondering just what the point to this film exactly is.

But believe me, there is a payoff, and it's a doozy. Even those who weren't enjoying the film were shaken out of their malaise by the surprisingly funny and satisfying ending. Clocking in at three hours, DOGVILLE doesn't drag, and it earns its running time. It also tells its tale in a unique, "Our Town"-esque style, with a surprisinly effective barren set and somewhat effective narrator. But despite the set limitations, the film is still visually striking in the way it portrays both the seasons and the tone of the townspeople by the inventive use of lighting. Grace is also lit very carefully to illustrate her nature.

"My favorite part of the film was the Christian allegory, which I found surprising and quite strong. Given the story and dialogue, I can't really think of any other way to interpret the film other than with the Christian symbolism. Many critics have harshly commented on the film that it's anti-American, to which I respond, so what? You don't have to agree with von Trier's politics or religious beliefs to enjoy the film. In fact, as we discussed after the film, it's difficult to even interpret what von Trier is trying to say in DOGVILLE. Does he truly believe the themes he presents in his film? Or is he merely trying to provoke the viewer? I am suspicious of the proposed trilogy that DOGVILLE begins. I'm not really sure where he is going to go next in this tale, and I think it's unfortunate that Nicole Kidman has declined to continue on in the role of Grace.

"DOGVILLE is a challenging film that will not be to everyone's taste, but I believe that it is a worthwhile film experience for anyone, and it will surely provoke viewers to talk about it afterwards. 4 cats"

Hilary says: "For those of you who actually paid to spend three hours of your life in the theatre with this film: As the old adage goes, you are either very brave or very stupid. I'm not sure if it was worse than I'd anticipated (having deliberately dodged it in theatres), but I found no redeeming qualities in this Danish Dogme-twisted version of 'Our Town.'"