Dogville (2003)

dogvilleI don’t have a short attention span, I’m willing to invest three hours, maybe four or five on a film that I think will ultimately end up being very good. I’ve seen “Ben-Hur”, and “Giant” and both were movies that were worth spending many hours on. When a film is great, a four hour movie can feel like five minutes and leave you wishing there were more, but when a movie is bad those four hours feel like an eternity, as did “Dogville”. I knew independent art films could be pretentious and rambling, it comes with the package, but I never knew they could be this pretentious and this utterly nonsensical.

“Dogville” is a film that it’s creator Lars Von Trier thinks he has down cold, it’s a film with a message Trier almost swears by without saying a thing, but the problem is Trier doesn’t know shit, and it’s perfectly obvious in the closing scenes of this. Were it not for the amazing cast, I’d have surely shut this off at the hour and a half mark, but after three hours, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The film does manage to boast a beautiful cast of established actors from supporting (Phillip Baker Hall), to the heavyweights like Nicole Kidman, Patricia Clarkson, Chloe Sevigny, and, my favorite, Paul Bettany just to name but a few that express their talents here, and it was one of the only aspects that kept my attention on the film. “Dogville” is a movie that makes no sense in the first half of the movie; you’re not sure exactly where everything is leading to, nor do you understand what Trier is trying to say exactly, but by the last two hours, the message is perfectly loud and clear, and Trier has some balls for such a message.

In a nutshell the movie is about how poor people are evil. That’s basically summing it up, but in a more complex manner, Trier makes the assumption (assumption not fact) that poor people are evil and without conscience because they are poor. I was left in the end thinking to myself, “So the poor are bad people?” What kind of fascist attitude is that? What, all poor people living in squalor are evil? If this is Trier’s view of America, he has a pretty demented view. Granted I’m far from a patriot of America, but I know better. Trier constantly refers to the poor characters in this film to the comparison of dogs, and in a sense explains that how can you not expect poor people to act like dogs when they are dogs to begin with? It’s an analogy that was (as a poor person) utterly ridiculous.

The movies inevitable message is how can you not expect dogs to act like dogs when they’re treated like dogs? It’s a disgusting message that only refers to America, I’m sure. But the problem is, within Trier’s self-indulgent and utterly self-important film, he just doesn’t seem to really comprehend that poverty is just worldwide. Is capitalism the main reason for poverty in America? Sure, I agree, Do poor people not get a fair shake? Of course, but are they evil? No, and the film’s immense ego never tries to explain what Trier means by such a message, and personally I don’t really care to learn of it. And within the utterly ridiculously violent ending which entails gunning down children, babies, and men and women, Trier is obviously making that truly uninformed statement without apology.

Aside from its ridiculous message, the film carries itself like any other stereotypical art film that detracts mainstream audiences, the story drags on in a rambling rampage for four hours, and tries to compose itself in this bare, theatrical, backstage theater trick, that was such an utterly obnoxious attempt at artsy, that it was distracting, and let’s not forget the cheesy chapter introductions spelling out the plot, most of which is just all ridiculous condescending junk that talks down to its audience instead of trying to tell a story. The film drudges on with an utterly sadomasochistic tirade in which the main character Grace is on the run from the law, takes residence in Dogville, and once it’s discovered she’s wanted, begins getting tortured by the towns people who constantly taunt her and use her as a tool for rape in constant graphic scenes.

All of which is ended with one of the most ridiculous montages I’ve ever seen. What the hell was the point of the montage in the end? Was Trier trying to show how America has problems? Well big surprise, the entire world has problems, and you haven’t exactly told me anything I didn’t already know, other than you’re a gigantic hack. While not Anti-American as many would think, Trier does present a fascist and pretty much “Duh” sensibility with his message about the lower class and its inability to function without morals while being exploited by the upper class. Despite good performances, this is a pretentious, and many times pointless piece of dreck, and though it does boast an amazing cast, Trier attempts to pass this off as art, when really it’s just ridiculous.