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For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.


photo caption:
GRACE UNDER FIRE: Grace (Nicole Kidman) has fled to Dogville, Colorado to escape the clutches of the mob, hoping to find a safe haven there.
end caption.

 

Dogville: Danish Director's 'Dogville' More of a Sketch Than a Movie

Review by Kam Williams

It takes a lot of arrogance to release a movie that looks like little more than a staged reading. But that's just what we have in the case of Dogville by acclaimed Danish director Lars von Trier (Breaking the Waves). A woefully underproduced, overextended sketch piece, this 3-hour endurance test was shot entirely indoors on just a couple of stages in Denmark and Sweden.

Von Trier skimped when it came to costumes and set design. Instead of houses and other community institutions, we simply see areas chalked-off on the ground with the name of its inhabitants stenciled in white. These "buildings" are set apart by similarly demarcated streets and alleys with names like Elm, Racoon, Canyon, Glunen and Steep Hill. Similarly, the non-existent gooseberry bushes, a disembodied dog named Moses, and innumerable other invisible props are yours to visualize in your imagination.

The story takes place in the Rocky Mountains in 1931, in Dogville, Colorado, a mythical silver mining town hit hard by the depression. The script, written by von Trier, is a morality play about the effect of a desperate stranger's unanticipated arrival on the village's 15 inhabitants.

The woman is being chased by the mob and has a price on her head as well. This leaves the townspeople with the ethical dilemma of whether to harbor a fugitive at considerable risk to themselves or to turn her in and collect the reward. Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman (The Hours) stars as Grace, the outsider with a checkered past, who arrives soon after gunshots ring out in the valley below Dogville. The cast features Oscar-nominees Lauren Bacall, Patricia Clarkson, James Caan, Chloe Sevigny, and John Hurt.

In addition, the production includes the highly regarded character actors Paul Bettany, Philip Baker Hall, Jeremy Davies, and Ben Gazzara.

However, the cast is hampered by the absence of props and crippled by a script which doesn't do justice to Dogville's intriguing premise.

The director is trying to produce a socially conscious movie on the level of such thought-provoking literary classics as William Golding's The Lord of the Flies, Shirley Jackson's The Lottery, or William Connell's The Most Dangerous Game.

However, when computer generated imagery offers more and more options in terms of scenery, nobody expects to go a theater to see such things as a dog or bushes being represented by words spray-painted on the floor.

After about an hour, the novelty wears off, and you're aching to watch an actual animal and shrubs. After two hours, you feel disappointed when you realize that this wouldn't even make a good play. After three hours, it's downright infuriating, especially when the interminable dialogue degenerates into drivel, leading to a contrived denouement.

Fair (1star). Rated R for brief nudity, sexual content, and violence

end of review.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

 

 
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