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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Dogville

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Harriet Andersson
Director: Lars von Trier
Rated: R
RunTime: 177 Minutes
Release Date: March 2004
Genres: Drama, Foreign, Suspense

*Also starring: Lauren Bacall, Jean-Marc Barr, Paul Bettany, Blair Brown, James Caan, Patricia Clarkson, Jeremy Davies, Ben Gazzara, Philip Baker Hall, Thom Hoffman

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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