Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Dogville



Denmark (Den/Swe/Fr/Nor/Neth/Fin/Ger/Ity/Jap/US/UK) (!) 2003 : Lars VON TRIER : 177 mins

Shot entirely on a single sound-stage, with streets, houses and geographical features marked out in white paint, Dogville is essentially a filmed play with copious narration provided by an unseen John Hurt to guides us through a prologue and nine chapters. In the 1930s, a mysterious young woman named Grace Mulligan (Kidman) takes refuge in the tiny Rocky Mountain town of Dogville, home to idealistic would-be writer Tom Edison (Paul Bettany). Edison welcomes the stranger, who seems to be on the run from murderous gangsters, and after initial uncertainty his fellow townsfolk also prove accepting. But it isn’t long before their ingrained suspicion of outsiders starts colouring their view of the apparently innocent and pure Grace and gradually her life becomes a nightmarish ordeal of physical and mental oppression and exploitation

Presented in its full three-hour version at Cannes, Dogville was pointedly shut out of the awards and received a very mixed critical reception and while von Trier had reportedly spent the best part of a year tinkering with the picture in post-production, he’s apparently going to perform some radical trimming before the film is shown to the paying public. Unfortunately for all concerned, Dogville isnt really worth all this bother. The film has many incidental pleasures and the twist ending is a knockout – but is so woefully, self-indulgently overlong that lopping off 45 minutes probably isn’t going to make much difference. A much more radical edit is required, down to around 90-100 minutes, but even this probably won’t address the fundamental problems of the unconvincing story and its gratuitously arty execution.

16th November, 2003
(seen 15th November : Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle)

this review is itself a radical edit of the essay Dogville : Barking Up the Wrong Tree

For a review of the making of Dogville – Dogville Confessions click here

by Neil Young