DANISH FILM FESTIVAL
Lars von Trier's America
Presented by Yamuna Rajendran
Feb 15, 2009 ; From 2.30 pm
Ashwin Hospital Auditorium
A Film By Lars von Trier
Country ; Denmark
Runtime: 178 min
English with English subtitles
The first thing to mention is von Trier's stylistic approach. Although the movie does not follow the ascetic Dogma guidelines (it uses pre-recorded music, for one thing), it in many ways takes a more bare-bones approach. The entire movie is presented as a set-less stage play. Instead of houses with walls and doors, there are chalk lines on the ground. The name of the main thoroughfare ("Elm Street") is written in block white letters where the pavement should be.
When characters are intended to be opening doors, the actors mime turning a door handle, while a helpful sound effect is heard. Ostensibly, von Trier's intention is for the audience to focus on the acting and themes without being distracted by the setting. The cast is amazing, with everyone giving a strong performance. In addition to Nicole Kidman, who is superlative as Grace.
Dogville is a tiny town in the Colorado Rockies during the 1930s. The population is small, consisting of 15 adults, a few children, and a dog. Into this settlement arrives Grace (Nicole Kidman), a beautiful woman being pursued by gangsters. One of the locals, Tom Edison (Paul Bettany), is immediately infatuated with her, and decides to act as her rescuer. He hides her from the gangsters, and, after they leave, proposes that she join the community. For this to happen, all 15 adults must approve her residency. She has two weeks to convince them that she will be a good citizen.
Inspired mostly by the Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Veil song "Pirate Jenny" and the Royal Shakespeare's production of Nicholas Nickleby von Trier made the inspired choice to craft a film entirely on a soundstage with exposed sets and door-less houses. When knocking on an abode, the characters knock the air. We can see inside each home, examining everything from the humdrum acts of cleaning to the savage acts that will befall Grace. The camerawork is fluid and
Though some have decried an anti-American stance by von Trier (and so what if he has one?),
Dogville's themes and questions are universal. Such things could take place in any community. But it is rare that you will find them depicted in quite this manner—the film will stick with you long after you leave the theater. The only thing simple you can say about Dogville is that it's a masterpiece. the story so absorbing that you almost forget you're watching what is essentially a filmed play.
A Film By Lars von Trier
Country ; Denmark
Runtime : 139 minutes
English with english subtitles
Alabama, 1933. A caravan of black limousines carries gangsters from a gold mining town in Colorado to a rural Alabama area where slavery still survives as an institution. Alabama looks uncannily like Colorado, as it must: The story that began in Lars Von Trier's "Dogville" (2003) continues here, with the same visual strategy of placing all the action on a sound stage, with chalk lines indicating the outlines of locations. A few rudimentary props flesh out the action, including doors, windows, and machineguns.
The movie is the second in a trilogy by Von Trier. Von Trier has set several movies about American greed, racism and the misuse of power.
Von Trier begins with a plantation in Alabama where slavery has never been abolished: Mam (Lauren Bacall) rules with a iron hand, assisted by her foreman Wilhelm (Danny Glover), a slave who believes his people are not ready for the responsibilities of freedom. Driving up to the gates of the imaginary plantation, Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) and her gangster father (Willem Dafoe) are surprised to find slavery still flourishing. Grace declares this cannot be, that the plantation must be informed of such historical events as the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation.
The film has a closing montage of photographs showing the history of African-Americans in America, from slavery through decades of poverty and discrimination to the civil rights movement, both its victories and defeats.
Lars von Trier
Lars Trier was born in Copenhagen, Denmark. After his graduation he began work on the Europe trilogy, which started with The Element of Crime (Forbrydelsens element 1984). He has made 32 films since and has received numerous international awards and honors for his films.
Von Trier often shoots his scenes for longer periods than most directors to encourage actors to stay in character. In Dogville he let actors stay in character for hours, in the style of method acting. The rules and restrictions are a break from the traditional Hollywood production. In order to create original art Von Trier feels that filmmakers must distinguish themselves stylistically from other films, often by placing restrictions on the filmmaking process.