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A quiet little town not far from here. 

Year: 2003 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from Dogville

Lars Von Trier is not a name one would readily associate with easy cinema. The co-founder of the confrontational Dogme 95 manifesto, and the director of the heartbreaking Dancer in the Dark and the divinely comic The Kingdom¸ Von Trier is not one to pull his punches, but also one of the very few directors working today who never refuses to deliver something resolutely, breathtakingly different. And, praise be, Dogville is yet another masterwork in the auteur’s oeuvre, a stunning, imaginative, and bleak sojourn into a very recognisable place indeed.

Dogville is a village situated somewhere in the American Rockies, a dying, insular skeleton of a habitation crawling slowly towards extinction. One night gunshots are heard far off in the distance, and soon after a mysterious young woman appears in the village, scared and looking for shelter and sanctuary. After some deliberation, the denizens of Dogville agree to take her in, but at a price – she must agree to work for them all, just a little bit, every day. At first the arrangement works, but before long, as the human traits of lust, jealousy and hatred begin to raise their ugly heads, the stakes begin to raise and suddenly Dogville becomes a very threatening, dangerous place indeed, and events begin to move towards a tragic end.

Filmed entirely on a large stage, Dogville exudes smart confidence and dazzling insight. Von Trier’s Brechtian revisioning of how cinema can function, utilising novelistic flourishes such as chapter points and a wry narrator reminiscent of George Eliot, makes for typically thought-provoking cinema. And cinema it is, making fine use of the camera to betray facial tics and expose the village’s hypocrisy and corruption through expert framing and considered movements.

With a film as inherently character based as this, performances are key to success, and Nicole Kidman, currently the most interesting A-List actress working, is exemplary as the tired, scared, tortured and ultimately destructive Grace. Paul Bettany, cruising towards Oscar glory, also shines as Grace’s hopeful, ambitious suitor, while turns from Lauren Bacall, Michael Gambon and Sonny Corleone himself add layers of talent and intertextual meanings to this deep and powerful mix. Dogville is another masterpiece from a director who has yet to deliver an uninteresting film, one of those rare films that can make you rethink exactly what film can do. Thought-provoking, adult stuff.

Greg Taylor

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Screenings of this film:

2003/2004 Summer Term (35mm)