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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 19.05%
Just Average: 13.33%
Pretty Crappy: 3.81%
Sucks: 20.95%

8 reviews, 57 user ratings

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by Jay Seaver

"An excruciating three hours."
1 stars

It's frustrating to try to write about movies like Dogville. Even though I strongly dislike it, it is insulated from criticism. It's thoroughly unpleasant, but it is meant to deal with the unpleasant parts of the human heart. The dialogue and situations seem awkward and stilted, but the story is clearly meant as a fable. The way the film is shot reeks of pretension, but also allows for some interesting visuals. And on and on.

At a certain point, I see all these justifications for the way the movie is made, and my natural reaction is to think that maybe the problem isn't the movie, but me. What kind of unsophisticated twit must I be to be able to recognize all that's good about the movie and yet still despise it? I mean, for crying out loud, Seaver, you just admitted to laughing yourself silly at Scooby Doo 2; how can you expect anyone to take your opinion seriously when it comes to a serious movie like this?

But I do hate it. Maybe not so much as I hated the only other Lars von Trier film I've seen (Epidemic), but I still find this to be an excruciating three hours. That von Trier had reasons and artistic intent for the things I feel failed does not make them automatically justifiable. The decision to shoot on a mostly empty soundstage, with writing on the floor indicating where walls would be and various bits of set dressing added where necessary, is an interesting one... but does it add enough too offset how completely stupid the cast frequently looks having pantomime so much? By itself, I think it's a nifty idea, but when combined with the twee chapter titles and near-constant narration, it starts to smack of an intrusive director who is, perhaps, less concerned with telling an interesting story and more concerned with making sure people know what a freaking genius he is than he should be.

Then there's the dialogue. It outright stinks. I don't care that it's not realistic - mere realism is often no more interesting than what a person hears standing in line for the movie - but I do care that it's boring. There's not a single memorable line or exchange in this movie. Even given that the characters are meant to be archtypes of sorts and that their interactions are meant to be symbolic or universal, what they say still doesn't ring true. Given how bland most of the conversation is, I'm not sure whether the frequent substitution of narration for action or dialogue is a blessing or a curse. As much as it pushes the characters further away, when von Trier does allow two characters to talk without interruption in the last chapter, it's almost painful - a bidirectional lecture on what should be considered arrogant that had me nearly screaming for the damn movie to just end already.

The real killer, though, is that the central two characters are just ridiculous constructs. Tom Edison Jr. (Paul Bettany) is a lazy would-be writer who sees himself as an intellectual, and seems to be held in disdain by the town, but also seems to control the rest of the population. Under normal circumstances, it seems someone as useless as Tom would be laughed at by the rest, but, no, everyone just goes along. Grace (Nicole Kidman), on the other hand, a pretty fugitive of sorts, is used just as badly by the filmmaker as she is by the town that expects a price for hiding her. She is, apparently, strong enough to run from the gangsters introduced in the first act, but for the better part of two hours on screen she never once stands up for herself. You'd think, at least after the first time she's raped, that she might act somewhat upset. Sure, we're given a philosophical reason for that later, but it sounds like so much crap, the sort of ideologically pure but practically impossible way of living one's life that can only exist in parables.

And maybe this film is meant to be a parable. It almost has to be. But just because it takes the form of a parable doesn't mean it imparts wisdom, or should be totally exempt from the need to tell an interesting story.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8122&reviewer=371
originally posted: 06/02/04 14:16:24
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2004 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Minneapolis/St.Paul Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Minneapolis/St.Paul Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/20/13 Jason Lan The needless narration was the worse part: the dialogue was simple enough. 1 stars
10/28/11 hurdygurdy man As a dear old friend use to say: Get the gun!! 1 stars
11/28/10 dick trombley A highly creative allegory, misunderstood by most. 5 stars
8/11/08 Shaun Wallner Awesome storyline! 5 stars
5/16/08 Remi Great style, great plot, great finale. 4 stars
5/12/08 Geoffrey Ms Bacall needs to lay off the Woodbines-she looks and sounds so rough. Excellent film! 5 stars
5/13/07 David Pollastrini Boooooring! 2 stars
4/15/07 Bitchflaps Fascinating. I wrote off Von Trier's films in the past and I'm tempted to reassess them now 5 stars
6/14/06 William Goss Lengthy yet rich, with a solid performance by Kidman and a refreshingly bold climax. 4 stars
11/27/05 Jane it is great 5 stars
8/25/05 Paperazzo no special effects, cool movie, something different 1 stars
8/21/05 mmm naka doesn´t know about movies 5 stars
6/19/05 chris. that was really fun 5 stars
3/11/05 maria magnificent expierence 5 stars
3/08/05 Uncle Phucker First ten mintues you'll have to excuse. It's well worth the strange ride. Best film 2003! 5 stars
3/06/05 ad awesome 5 stars
1/10/05 allen stott great movie!!!! 4 stars
12/01/04 Lach MacDonald The slow narrative pace doesn't suit the TV-reflex attention span; so what? 5 stars
11/28/04 Movie Lover This film was unbearable. 1 stars
11/21/04 Dragana ATR, this is ART! I did not notice that lasted 3 hours 5 stars
11/21/04 ad nice twist 4 stars
11/12/04 Naka Nope! 1 stars
10/31/04 Anne-Marike revealing. the plain scenerie puts an emphasis on the character's inner development 5 stars
10/17/04 Natasha Theobald amazing storytelling; cynical and disturbing with a bedrock of truth 4 stars
10/16/04 Charlene Javier Possibly one of the best films of all time... 5 stars
10/13/04 fiona interesting 4 stars
9/12/04 leeleeD. Brilliant. I'm stunned. 5 stars
8/31/04 psycho dwarf Lars' sardonicism is overbearing in this trojan horse for polemical debate. 3 stars
8/30/04 A F Pretty good. Kidman makes me sick. Someone put her down. 4 stars
8/27/04 tatum It's not anti-American, it's anti-viewer, anti-entertaining, and Von Trier sucks! 1 stars
7/17/04 legend An interesting film about the nature of people and their dark side. 4 stars
6/15/04 Roxana It makes a few memorable points about human nature, about our fear of anything foreign. 4 stars
5/10/04 Palme d' Or The movie was a bit too stilted, but it did have some worth, and Nicole Kidman was great. 4 stars
5/01/04 nniedzielski It took me a few days after seeing this to realize what an effect it had on me. 4 stars
4/30/04 Cameron Slick aargh 2 stars
4/18/04 Monster W. Kung Von Trier's never been to the US yet thinks they suck huh? Well I've never seen this movie! 1 stars
4/14/04 von More about humanity than America, and the best movie to come out of this decade yet. 5 stars
4/12/04 zig it make you think about humanity itself 5 stars
4/03/04 freya Kay Interesting view of how others may view America. It is about saving amd than enslaving 4 stars
4/01/04 mark boring 1 stars
3/28/04 Xander long, weird, confusing (chalk?) but somewhat engaging 3 stars
3/21/04 Anarchy Azmi orang putih semua bodoh amerika bangang 5 stars
2/13/04 Jack Daniels Film for aspiring intellectuals that want to believe they've understood something profound 1 stars
1/27/04 irena overelongated, moralistic, over-explanatory, pathetic and morbid exaggeration 2 stars
1/27/04 NIcole Awesome, brilliant and Kidman is sublime 5 stars
1/23/04 Carina Romer All I can say is, he has done it again! I love his symbolism! 5 stars
1/20/04 Betty White Breathtaking cinematography and rich performances, especially from Kidman & Bacall. 5 stars
1/18/04 Akilis Awesome, brilliant and Kidman is sublime 5 stars
1/18/04 Lilo Great Script. Brilliant actors. Katharsis. Insight. I watched it 3 times (until now). 5 stars
1/16/04 Elendil Shaky camera. Good script. 4 stars
1/13/04 miky finally someone proves that comercially movies must be kicked out. 5 stars
1/13/04 Helen Bradley Kidman excellent weird but great script 5 stars
1/01/04 christopher pathetic 1 stars
12/29/03 John Bale Bleak fable set as theatre, good acting, poor camerawork. Nicole sounds like Marilyn M. 4 stars
12/17/03 Kyle *Yawn* WAY too damn long. 2 stars
11/20/03 Reini Urban This is how theater should be. masterpiece 5 stars
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  26-Mar-2004 (R)
  DVD: 24-Aug-2004



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