Fred’s No Clue Movie Review

Directed by Lars Von Trier

A film that takes a lot of chances can either be viewed as brilliant or just plain boring. Unfortunately, the director of such avant-garde fare like Dancer in the Dark and Breaking the Waves, delivers this film, which I found to be the latter.  Boring, uninspiring, hateful, and devoid of feeling are some of the emotions I felt while watching this movie.  If that's what he intended, fine, but I don't choose to spend my money on films like this.  It's one of those films that you'll either love or just plain hate.  There's no room for in-between.    

Dogville, is a filmic experiment.  It is shot on a spartan soundstage with few props, just chalk outlines on the floor.  The actors are always in full view of one another and the audience.  It reminded me a lot of the play “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder, including an unseen narrator that acts like Wilder's Stage Manager.  A small number of sound effects are used to help set the mood.  Many times, Von Trier places the camera above and looking down, giving us a map of the town.  A god like view of this little corner of the world.  This aspect of the film intrigued me.  Although, at a running time of three hours, this film needs more than a gimmick to hold my attention.  Introduced to the audience in nine separate chapters, it often feels like completely different movies within those chapters.  It continually changes moods; tone and characters' desires are all over the map.    

The cast is top notch.  Featuring Nicole Kidman, Paul Bettany, and Lauren Bacall among others, the film has plenty of star power.  The actors are engaging and doing the best job they can with the material they have.  Kidman is a standout perfomer as always.  She is fragile, eager to please and non-threatening for much of the film as Grace.  Then you can just feel her pain ooze out of every crevice of her being as the film progresses.  Finally, at the end, the film turns itself on its ear and she embodies a cold-blooded killer hell bent on revenge.  For my money, Kidman is one of Hollywood's strongest actresses continually delivering amazing performances.  She's a fearless leading lady who bears her soul every time and takes tons of risks.  Bettany stars as Tom, who appears as the film's conscience at the start of the film then slowly drifts into a man who is doing everything possible to help the other townspeople destroy the very fiber of Grace's being.  Yet at the start of the film, the townsfolk are scared, frightened, but are willing to help out a poor woman in trouble.  See what I mean, by being all over the map?  I didn't understand at all, why Von Trier would want the citizens of Dogville, to turn into heathen animals.  It seemed to be a direct attack on the values and ideals that we as Americans hold dear to our hearts.  At one point in the film, it seems to suggest that America is filled with folks who attempt to lull people into a false sense of confidence about themselves, only to finally treat them as slaves and whores.  By the end of this film, I couldn't find one character that I could relate to, sympathize with, or feel for at all.  I felt like all that time I spent attempting to invest in these characters and understand them, was carelessly tossed aside in favor of furthering some sort of political agenda.  It confused me and caused me to feel cheated in my movie going experience.    

The film was shot in a high definition video format and transferred to film in post.  It looked fantastic for a digital production. The hand held camera style created an artificial feeling of realism that was juxtaposed against the sanitary unreal backdrop of the soundstage.  It's indicative of the style of the other films of Lars Von Trier without trying to copy any of them.  That’s one thing that I admire about the director.  He takes lots of risks in his films and doesn't attempt to conform to any of Hollywood's standards.  Sadly, this film feels to be an experiment gone wrong.  An artsy fartsy film in every sense of the term.  It offers nothing to the audience at the end and personally, I felt like I had been lied to and manipulated through

Now, some may say that it was Von Trier's intention to shock and open people's minds to our worl
d in its harsh reality.  I guess I say that it just seems to be a self-indulgent piece of blah that doesn't need to be taking up screens even at the local art house cinema.  If you don't live in a big city, don't count on seeing this film.  I can only imagine that it has only a slim chance of making money even in the largest of metropolitan areas.  I'm glad that we have risk-taking filmmakers working today like Von Trier.  I only wish that they always lived up to expectations.  For me, this is a huge disappointment.  An experimental piece of filmmaking that I had really been looking forward to seeing.  Now, I'm left with an empty feeling and 3 hours of my life that I will never get back.

Consider yourself warned.

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