There's a sucker born every minute, & several of them are calling Dogville (2003) a masterpiece, fearful of being mistaken for the plebian hordes if they admit they didn't like it.
In reality the emperor has no clothes, & this is now official: director von Triers is not the genius he thinks he is. He may be trying to emulate Bertolt Brecht in Dogville, but this comes off as badly written play about rural America by someone who knows diddly-squat about rural America.
Too long by an hour, it attempts to turn a fairly simple story into a fable, but the depth for layered meaning just isn't there. Grace (Nicole Kidman) is a kindly innocent woman in flight from the mob when she arrives in a small town in the mountains of 1930s western America.
The town ends up helping her avoid the gangsters & the police, but only if she will serve more or less as the town slave; or, as it seems, act as a game piece in the tedious moralistic stage play they exist within.
The town's sense of its own superiority is undermined by their own power over the woman whose safety is completely in their control.
Either they were corrupted by that power, or their true & awful nature was always only masked by their own mistaken high opinion of themselves. Like a cheap gothic novel, it all ends in well-earned conflagration.
In outline it's a decent enough excuse for live television in the 1950s. It's so twaddlingly self-important & "lesson" oriented that the film itself comes off being as misguided as the townspeople.
Or the director is assessing himself morally superior, sufficiently so to cast judgement against these characters, who are reduced to cyphers symbolic of all Americans (if we're to accept his own contention that it's a fable).
It is minimally staged like a live theater performance & filmed as such. Lacking the immediacy of attending an actual live play, watching it at such a distance simply isn't interesting. Drawing the scenery on the floor comes off as affected, inessential to telling the story, & merely distracting.
The actors couldn't get into it & turn in performances as phony as the largely empty set. The only thing it succeeds at is pomposity, without which it would just look cheap.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl