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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 Robert Flaxman

"A real dog of a film."
1 stars

The images and music during Dogville's closing credits suggest the film as an anti-American polemic, but very little of the preceding three hours does anything to give weight to that particular critique. With a heroine no more likable than those who do her wrong, Dogville's unfocused attack incriminates everyone and no one.

Ramblingly written and barely directed by experimental guru Lars von Trier, Dogville presents a tiny town whose residents are universally loathsome. Called upon to reveal a soft side upon the arrival of not-so-innocent Grace (Nicole Kidman), the town cannot maintain it for long, turning on Grace when questions about her past surface. On the other hand, those questions are hardly unfounded, and Grace takes a shocking amount of abuse with a disturbingly quiet tolerance - until she gets a chance at revenge, that is.

The problem (well, one of the problems) with von Trier's "America sucks" message is that the audience needs to root for someone against the microcosmic America of Dogville, and Grace fails to fit the bill. Von Trier seems to be suggesting that America is inclined to exploit the poor, who suffer such abuse because they don't have better options, but here the metaphor goes off the tracks, since the exploitation of Grace springs from a knee-jerk fear of a vaguely-described shady past and not from her financial situation alone - in addition to which, the citizens of Dogville are plenty poor themselves.

Maybe, then, von Trier's film is simply misanthropic. In fact, he seems to hate a wide range of people. He obviously has real problems with America, but this and previous films also suggest that he has some real issues with women. Whether or not Grace is supposed to be the heroine of the film in von Trier's eyes, he certainly subjects her to a shameful amount of abuse - the townsfolk end up chaining her to a wheel while the men take turns raping her. Even assuming something suitably extreme were absolutely necessary to show the town's problems, the torrent of abuse Grace suffers just goes overboard.

Indeed, it's never really clear who von Trier hates the most: Americans, women, or the whole human race. If the film's repetitive themes and stilted dialogue are anything to go by, though, it seems he hates his actors the most. Dogville as a film feels like the penance for anyone who wasn't smart enough to turn it down. Kidman in particular tries to save the film, but there's really nothing she can do with such a character, and everyone else plays roles so irredeemably awful that the best acting in the world would really only make them worse.

Even assuming that the allegory of Dogville were perfect, it wouldn't explain the film's almost unfathomably long three-hour running time, nor is it clear what the endless narration and chalk-outline sets add to the film's point... whatever that happens to be. They fail to make the film any more interesting, at any rate. The narration, delivered by a smug-sounding John Hurt, is disturbingly matter-of-fact, failing to account for the problematic nature of the goings-on in Dogville. It's okay for films not to give answers, but von Trier's vision is so bleak and inhuman that it begs explanation. That none comes only makes the events seem worse, as a failure to justify them only makes von Trier seem sadistic, not intelligent.

Both dreary and uncomfortable to watch, significantly overlong, and unsure of what about America or anything else it's trying to target, Dogville misses just about every conceivable mark. The mixture of bad ideas with needless gimmickry hasn't worked for a film yet, and Dogville isn't even close to being the first.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8122&reviewer=385
originally posted: 10/13/04 04:38:25
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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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