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Items | 19 years of ‘Dogville’, one of the best and most controversial films of the century

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Lars von Trier is one of the most contradictory directors in the contemporary film industry, not only because of his moving speeches – no wonder he is always considered persona non grata at the Cannes Film Festival – but above all because content of its productions. Many associate his name with works such as “Antichrist” and “Melancholia”, which defied many taboos and were highly appreciated by critics and audiences alike. However, the feature films in question can be considered as the most square aesthetically speaking, because they are part of the methods of classic cinema, even if they move away from narrative formulas; a few years earlier, Von Trier had rediscovered it in a school that had always tried to go all the way with fire and iron with “Dogville”, a religious allegory disguised as a drama of overcoming.

The plot revolves around Grace (Nicole Kidman), a young woman who arrives in the title town fleeing a group of gangsters and seeks asylum and protection for its inhabitants. The community, hidden in the mountains, always remained as peaceful as possible, and it was only when our heroine appeared that they had to deal with something like this. After a brief deliberation in the small church, “Chief” Tom Edison (Paul Bettany), with the deliberately evocative name, decides to shelter her in exchange for help with daily activities, such as cleaning, maintaining order, planting and others. Grace automatically accepts and begins to live in a small house, bonding with the other inhabitants and trying to win them over little by little.

Considering the director’s previous work, such as ‘The Idiots’ and ‘Dancing in the Dark’, nothing presented to us remains on the surface. First of all, the work is divided into ten parts (a prologue and nine chapters), presenting the characters and how each one rises in small organic fragments which undergo a possible destabilization with the entry of a new unscheduled part . It is already possible to feel this rupture of atmosphere when we understand two main facts: Tom using Grace as an object of study on the theory according to which the community would not be able to accept the external changes and the fact that the history takes place in the period just after the Great Depression in the United States.

“Nothing is what it seems” is one of the premises to look for within the feature film, but the maxim “man is essentially evil” seems to speak more to the construction of his characters. As events unfold and the protagonist declares her love for the small town, more and more truths become part of the daily life of the inhabitants. The release of a poster with his face and the requested caption is the height of everyone abusing their goodwill even more – including psychological and physical abuse by each of the supporting cast. In addition to the rape scenes, there are sequences in which Grace is forced to suffer at the cruel hands of Ma Ginger (Lauren Bacall).

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Midway through the film, Kidman’s character dives into the Jesus Christ complex, becoming a martyr for the greater good. Evasive communication makes it difficult to rebuild trust that shouldn’t even exist in the first place. She tries hard to please everyone, but deep down she harbors a huge resentment that is even more evident when she begins to develop an abusive relationship with Tom, who remains complacent about the injustices he sudden. It is obvious to glimpse a tragedy whose tunes take shape little by little until they find their endless abyss.

Von Trier doesn’t rely on storytelling alone to keep audiences hooked. As mentioned above, it goes back to the basics of Dogma 95 – a series of “laws” for the production of films to be followed by its participants – and, although it does not follow it to the letter, it makes good use of it. . irreverent clauses. Thus, the plot unfolds in an atmosphere without sets, with limits delimited by white lines on the ground, requiring even more work than expected from each of the actors, since they constantly embody their respective characters; in this regard, Kidman is the one who most manages to steal the show, displaying a frank and unique versatility amid the amorphous mass of his “companions”, who are in fact rotten under the guise of good citizens.

The filmmaker makes good use of a practically free camera, entirely guided by the hand and obligatorily marked by the sudden shifts from one actor to another. At first glance, it seems strange, but in composition with a few fully symmetrical orgasm shots, it makes sense in the existentialist framework of the screenplay also signed by Von Trier. The abrupt cuts, borrowed from the cubist aesthetic, are constant and help to prepare the audience for a poignant conclusion which, in the end, reflects what the director wanted to convey: the petty and arrogant nature of the human being. Even the chaste and religious Vera (Patricia Clarkson) isn’t immune to indulging in the worst that man has to offer.

Finally, the plot reaches its epic finale, heir to Greek tragedies with breathtakingly cathartic sequences. Tom betrays Grace’s trust after she rejects him and calls the mobsters to find out the boss is actually his father. The heroine shows herself weary and exhausted after suffering at the hands of these people and also gives in to her weaknesses, foreshadowing the silent confirmation of a bloody and explicit massacre that only ends with the last sentence spoken by the narrator: ” Dogville is a town the world does not need”.

‘Dogville’ is not exclusive to cinema, but a universal and timeless tale that serves to understand the social extremisms we experience today – including the lack of empathy and otherness towards the other. And though it tries to look for an optimistic way out, the feature shatters all expectations with its tortuous and bitter portrayal of a sad and boring reality.

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