out of 4
All-Reviews.com Movie/Video Review
Review by Susan Granger
3 stars out of 4
Danish film-maker Lars von Trier ("Breaking the Waves") tries a caustic,
cynical twist on Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" in this three-hour cinematic
curiosity, set in Depression Era.
Narrated by John Hurt, the fantasy begins as Grace (Nicole Kidman), an
enigmatic stranger arrives in an isolated Rocky Mountain mining town. She's
hiding from a gangster (James Caan). Encouraged by Tom Edison Jr. (Paul
Bettany), the citizens (Lauren Bacall, Patricia Clarkson, Ben Gazzara, Chloe
Sevigny, Stellan Skarsgard, Blair Brown) of the little community agree to give
her refuge and, in return, Grace offers to work for them. That works well until
the townsfolk demand a better deal in exchange for harboring Grace, a
humiliating bargain that includes an iron collar and savage sexual slavery. But
they don't realize that Grace has a dangerous secret.
Like Thornton Wilder, Lars von Trier prefers audiences to envision his
imaginary town, so houses are simply suggested by chalk-drawn lines on a bare
stage. While there are few specifics, its remote, no-frills minimalism is
filled with subtext. "The point is that evil can rise anywhere, as long as the
situation is right," von Trier notes, utilizing raw, compelling close-ups, shot
in digital video, that are extraordinarily effective within the claustrophobic
setting. Provocatively, his austere, artificial allegory on the universality of
evil then turns into a vicious, documentary-like condemnation of the American
Dream. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Dogville" is a frustrating yet
fascinating 7. Like Michelangelo Antonioni's "Zabriskie Point" and Wim Wenders'
"Paris, Texas," it reflects a different America, one that's viewed - this time
- through the skewed, suspicious, often self-contradictory lens of an
experimental European eye.
Copyright © 2004 Susan Granger
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