Year Released: 2003
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 127 minutes
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I’ll keep this review brief, because “Dogville” is not worth talking about. Lars von Trier’s new film takes place in an isolated Rocky Mountains town during the 1930s that becomes the unlikely hiding place of a mysterious young woman who is fleeing from gangsters. The townsfolk initially view her with suspicion, but when she offers to work for them in exchange for shelter they begin to accept and appreciate her. But over time the townsfolk become venal and manipulative and the young woman is exploited to the point of sexual abuse and enslavement in chains. Eventually the town decides to turn her over to the gangsters, but their hopes of receiving a hefty cash reward proves to be fatally foolish.
“Dogville” feels like a nasty parody of Thorton Wilder’s “Our Town” and it even employs the bare-bones staging of that beloved piece of idyllic Americana. Yet the film unrolls with a stunning lack of logic, with numerous ludicrous plot twists and abrupt reversals of character personalities. These literally come out of nowhere and seem only to exist so the film can achieve an epic three hour running time. Adding to the confusion is a closing photo montage of scenes depicting squalor in the Great Depression and today (with an irrelevant portrait of Richard Nixon thrown in) that is scored to David Bowie singing “Young Americans.” To bend the old tagline of the A&E cable network, this is not time well spent.
If “Dogville” has a reason for importance, it is the astonishing all-star ensemble who try very hard to put life into their cardboard characters and make this silly film work. Nicole Kidman, Lauren Bacall, Paul Bettany, Patricia Clarkson, Chloe Sevigny, Blair Brown, Stellan Skarsgard, Jeremy Davies, Harriet Andersson, Ben Gazzara and Udo Kier strut and fret before the camera but are ultimately betrayed by their inadequate material. James Caan offers unintentional humor with a lazy performance that looks to have been read directly from cue cards. John Hurt narrates the film with the most pretentious and haughty non-John Hurt manner imaginable.
Don’t waste your money on this one. Please!
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Posted on March 22, 2004 in Reviews by Phil Hall
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