Saturday, September 10, 2005

Unfair review #6

Went to see Dogville the other day. Again, didn't use much gas to get there as it was in my living room, which is conveniently located within my house.

Dancer in the Dark by the same director was a very very good, if not completely enjoyable film. I found Dogville to be in much the same vein, at least as far as plot goes.

The two movies have similar unrelenting, shocking depictions of betrayal, and what "ordinary people" can/will do at their worst. I imagine Lars von Trier (if that is his real name) must have either had some bad experiences himself, or has done some things he's ashamed of, or is very good at delving into the depths of human nature through imagination alone.

D in the D used colour, lighting and camera style (can't think of the correct word here, comments please) to highlight the difference between the reality and the fantasy of the main character. Reality was close to the Dogme 95 manifesto, washed-out colours, hand-held camera, while the fantasy musical numbers were in beautiful, glowing colours, using all sorts of flashy crane and tracking shots.

Dogville also made some use of the Dogme 95 doctrine (which I'm pretty sure I hate, by the way) - the vast majority was shot using (pretty much) a hand-held camera. Other aspects of Dogme 95 were ignored - there was non-diagetic music, and it wasn't filmed on location . . .

. . . kind of. The shtick with this film is the set. It's entirely within one massive soundstage, and is a layout of a (very) small town, with a main street lined with the characters' houses. These are all drawn in outline on the stage, and save for a few random bits (like the meeting-hall belltower, and some furniture), there is nothing else. No walls, no doors, no windows.

I'd heard two conflicting opinions about this - people either said, "If I wanted to watch a fucking play I'd go to the theatre," or, "It didn't matter, the film was great." I fall into the latter camp, although I did think the method used to get the story across was a bit distracting at first. Once the film was about a quarter over, though, I really hardly noticed.

This was a brave attempt to do something interesting and different, and either it didn't work, but the story was so great it shone through, or it worked brilliantly, and made a great story even better. I'm not totally sure which I think it is.

If you've seen D in the D and found the ending a little - um - depressing, not to worry, Dogville is almost upbeat by comparison.

Sort of.

1 comment:

afraid said...

His real name is Lars Trier; he added the 'von' himself, I assume to sound more great - like van Gogh, or von Stroheim.

I saw this movie when it came out, and it had an extremely profound effect on me. I thought to myself, how does this guy know what I'm thinking? I identified so strongly with Grace through the first eight chapters, then when the story turned on its head in the final chapter, I was forced to look at the other characters sympathetically, and see that I was just like them too. They weren't archetypes, but real, complex people, with unconscious motivations and severe flaws.

The whole 'arrogance' thing blew my mind as well, because I often found myself thinking the way Grace did (and I still do today). It's not pride, it's not even pity; just an involuntary hubris that I can't soften no matter how hard I try. This was the first time it had been pointed out to me, and it was strange that it was a film doing so - it made me feel like the film was speaking directly to me and me alone.

However, judging by what I call the 'distancing laughter' from most of the other patrons in the audience, it cut close to the bone for them too. What is your response to art that uncomfortably points out your flaws as a human being? I'll laugh, damn it, because there's no way I'm going to let myself identify with characters I viddy on a screen, especially not characters who are imperfect. It's just a movie, for goodness' sake!

Anyway, von Trier's second instalment of this trilogy is coming soon, and it's called Manderlay. I'm looking forward to it with keen interest. Can I also recommend the superb making of on the Dogville disc - it's one of the best making-ofs ever, without a doubt.