Rated: R for graphic violence, rape, and strong sexual content
Genre: Play/Americana Drama
Directed By: Lars Von Trier
Running Time: 2:57
Review by: Neal Bailey
Review Date: 1/04/05


Nicole Kidman is very beautiful, and if you’re going to watch a movie that’s three hours long, you ought to be doing it watching Nicole Kidman.

As well, there are distinctive characters in this film, and a novel concept for a set, chalk lines on what is essentially the set of a play on a stage.

There is also a gut-wrenching feel when you experience the immolation at the end, and there is a feeling of utter closure at the end of this story.

However, all of these things are not made up for given the disappointing story. Here’s the gist. You get a bunch of people together who act well, you give them distinctive characters, and you let them run around. Sometimes that works, see “Royal Tenenbaum’s”, and sometimes, well, you get junk. Like “Dogville”.

This is the story of a small town taking in a young woman. She proves herself to them by working, and eventually they enslave her, constantly rape her, and then she has her former friends from the mob shoot them all and burn the town. It seems to be many things…a feminist revenge tale, a small town story gone wrong, and a tragedy, but ultimately, it ends up being none of these because the characters go nowhere. You introduce and develop some 12 characters and make them appealing to the audience, and then without any resolution to their character, you kill them, and you wonder why at the end, the audience balks. Or at least I do.

As well, it entered the realm of implausibility as soon as Kidman started getting raped by everyone. You sit back, and you say, “How obvious can the men are scum idea get?”

And the reality is that the fact that men are obsessed with sex doesn’t lead to the conclusion that all men are rapists save the emasculated men (Tom, in this case).

And the end is almost insulting, at least to me, who cannot be insulted generally. They show impoverished people to the tune of Young American, which I can only assume means that just because you’re poor doesn’t mean it’s okay to be like the people of the town who were just shot and burned to death (including the babies).

The moral I get from that (though I could be wrong) is that poor people are evil because of their poverty.

So there are a number of themes I don’t like in this film. Feminist revenge (I believe that oppressed becoming the oppressors is the critical failing of history), poverty as something that is the fault of the impoverished and just general violence as a way to solve problems.

Outside of the thematic element, however, you don’t build up a story in one direction and take it to another, illogical direction. A kind small town doesn’t just become rapists and sadists, and small towns are not filled with sadists and rapists. This is an indictment of human nature, but you’re better off using people who really are an indictment of human nature rather than small town folk for shock value. I’m not shocked, I’m just confused.

I really want my three hours back, I really want to know what the point of that final montage is, and now, in the future, I have an example of a movie to point to with fine acting, a great set, good cinematography, and an absolutely flawed execution that is pointless. I blame the writer. If you want this done well, watch Magnolia.




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