On the run from gangsters, Grace (Nicole Kidman) finds refuge in the isolated township of Dogville. To repay their good deed, she carries out odd jobs for the townsfolk, but soon realises their loyalty has a greater price.

5
It's a film that deals with serious themes, it's a film that you discuss standing on the footpath afterwards, and more after that.

The films of Lars von Trier are never bland affairs, he evokes extreme passions in the cinema he makes, Dogville is no exception. On a soundstage in Denmark a town in the Rocky Mountains in America is marked out on the floor – there's Elm Street – and along it live 15 voters and some children. There's the embittered orchardist Stellen Skaarsgaard married to Vera, Patricia Clarkson, and their seven children; the local storeowner, Lauren Bacall; the blind old man, Ben Gazarra; the retired doctor, Phillip Baker Hall and his son Tom; the town's philosopher, Paul Bettany. And there are others, but it's Tom who discovers Grace, Nicole Kidman, a fugitive from shots in the valley below- who seeks shelter in Dogville. Grace is given two weeks to prove herself which she does splendidly, Dogville is becoming wonderful because of her. The townsfolk vote for her to stay, but as threats from outside arrive in "Missing" and "Wanted" posters for Grace, inspired by the gangsters who seek her, the town gradually turns on this gift they've been given.

Inspired by Jenny's Song from The Threepenny Opera and by the televised plays of his youth Lars von Trier has daringly created a scenario that can be perceived, justifiably, as anti-American. But it can also be seen as a much more universal depiction of the follies of human nature, our proclivity for destroying everything that's good in our society, it can be seen not as misogynistic but as an insight into a woman acting as a victim being treated as one. It's more a misanthropic film really because the men are quite vile. It's a film that deals with serious themes, it's a film that you discuss standing on the footpath afterwards, and more after that. Nicole is absolutely splendid, the whole cast is really.

 

 

Comments by David Stratton: I still don't get the enthusiasm for Lars Von Trier; my junior school production of Willow Pattern Plate was more exciting than this bare-set experiment; at least we didn't have to force embarrassed actors to open and close non-existent doors. And why cast talents like Lauren Bacall and Ben Gazzarra, among others, if you're going to do absolutely nothing with them? My single star is for the bold performance of Nicole Kidman, who certainly lifts the film (and has had the good sense not to sign on for the next one) and for James Caan who also seems to be trying to give a performance amid all the self-important, and utterly empty, melodramatics.