It is a parable that uses an extremely minimal, stage -like set to tell the story of Grace Mulligan Kidman , a woman hiding from mobsters , who arrives in the small mountain town of Dogville, Colorado , and is provided refuge in return for physical labor. It was screened at various film festivals before receiving a limited release in the US on March 26, Dogville opened to polarized reviews from critics. Some considered it to be pretentious or exasperating; it was viewed by others as a masterpiece,  and has grown in stature since its initial release.
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Stig Bjorkman There are elements in Dogville that are reminiscent of classic Anglo-Saxon literature, from Fielding to Dickens, with the omniscient narrator's voice and the division into chapters, where the chapter headings give an idea of what is about to happen. Lars von Trier That's true, but it's more likely I had a book like Winnie the Pooh in mind when I was writing the screenplay.
There, at the beginning of each chapter, you read things like, "In which Pooh and Piglet go hunting and nearly catch a Woozle", for instance. Things like that, which really get your imagination going. One of my favourite films is Barry Lyndon, which is also divided into chapters, although I don't remember if there are any clues as to what the chapters are going to contain. The screenplay of Dogville is divided into scenes.
It might say, "The scene where this or that happens But later on we switched to calling the scenes "chapters", partly because of the word's literary associations. LVT The film was certainly inspired by Brecht. I would prefer to call it second-hand inspiration, though. My mother was really keen on Brecht. She left home when her father broke her Kurt Weill records, old 78s. She was only 16 then, but Weill was her great musical passion and she couldn't bear what her father had done.
Brecht was something of a domestic god when I was growing up, whereas my generation has tended to view him as a rather old-fashioned genius. Fashions and tastes are constantly changing, of course.
But Dogville is inspired by Brecht. I listened to that a lot and was really seduced by the great revenge motif in the song: "And they asked me which heads should fall, and the harbour fell quiet as I answered 'All'. We happened to be listening to that song, and I said I could see myself making a film about revenge.
I thought the most interesting thing would be to come up with a story where you build up everything leading to the act of vengeance.
And, of course, these days I've got this notion that I can only make films that are set in the US, maybe because I was criticised when Dancer in the Dark came out for making a film about a country I've never been to. I can't really understand that sort of criticism. But one reason for it might be that I criticised the American justice system in the film.
And I daresay I know more about America from various media than the Americans did about Morocco when they made Casablanca. They never went there either. Humphrey Bogart never set foot in the town. SB Did you get the idea for the form of Dogville at the same time as the plot?
But it felt boring. Then I went on a fishing trip to Sweden, and wasn't having any luck! Suddenly I had the idea that you could see the whole of Dogville as though laid out on a map.
That the whole story could be told on an unfolded map. I'm pretty fascinated by the limitations that unity of space can give you. Another source of inspiration was one of the best things I've seen on television: Trevor Nunn's adaptation of Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
It looked like the actors were allowed to improvise from the text. It was a magnificent production. You can do almost anything on film now. With the help of computers, I can insert a herd of elephants into a scene, or create an earthquake.
But that doesn't interest me. I'd rather draw the shape of a dog on the studio floor to mark that there is a dog there, or put a crate of beer in a corner to indicate a bar. SB The plot of Dogville is largely driven forward by a narrator's voice, rather in the style of old English novels. Was this the intention when you first got the idea for the film? LVT It was there right from the start. As usual I wrote the screenplay very quickly.
It was a fairly large script, about pages, but once I have the idea for a story and start writing it down, the words fall over each other and the writing process itself is quickly done.
I haven't read much classic English literature. But I've read Wodehouse, for instance, who uses the same sort of subtle, knowing tone that I've tried to get across in the text. I've seen the film, and it too has a rather ironic narrator's commentary that reveals some of the characters' underlying motivations.
It was an incredibly tiring shoot. Dogville was filmed in about six weeks. That's fast. Unnecessarily fast. I could have taken longer, but at some point before we got started I recklessly declared that I'd have the job done in no time. It was tough work as well. I was running about all day long with that bloody camera on my shoulder.
It might strike some people as a confusing way of using the camera, but this is how I want it. I can't defend the technique apart from saying that I think it's the best way to shoot my films. SB What did all these American Hollywood stars with whom you've adorned your film make of it?
It must seem very strange to them. LVT I don't know about that. I'm sure they've had a lot of opinions about my way of working, but I think they've been pretty happy, in spite of everything. I know Nicole [Kidman] was completely in tune with what I was doing. I was asking her to do things in front of the camera that were pretty demanding, and she just did them. She evidently realised that a lot of thought had gone into this way of working, and that there was a point to doing it this way.
LVT She was there right from the start, because I wrote the screenplay with her in mind as the female lead. I had seen her in Far and Away, which wasn't a particularly good film, and I had read an interview where she said she would like to work with me. So I thought, "OK, I'll write a film for her. I didn't have any idea that she was as tall as she is. She's gorgeous. SB And the other actors? Did you choose them all, or were they suggested by your casting director?
LVT It varied. I knew some of them from before, of course, like Stellan Skarsgard. And I'd dreamed of working with Ben Gazzara for a long time. Some of them got in touch asking to be involved, like Jeremy Davies and Chloe Sevigny. That was great, because they're both really good. We've been lucky.
But what a bunch to try and keep in check. It's like a children's nursery, only 20 times worse! We lost quite a few days when Katrin Cartlidge had to leave the set. I had to record all her scenes again with Patricia Clarkson, who took over the role at four days' notice and made something very different but also very personal out of it.
And now Katrin is dead. I miss her terribly. SB At the beginning of Dogville the narrator says of the male lead, Tom: "Although he did not blast his way through the rock, Tom tunnelled through what could be even harder, namely the human soul, deep into where it glittered.
LVT In that case you could say that Tom is a sort of self-portrait. As the Danish author Klaus Rifbjerg once put it: "I chop myself up into a number of smaller pieces, and there I have the characters in my story. At any rate, it's true of Grace and Tom. I can argue from both their points of view. Do you know the child's game where you have to adopt a point of view and argue purely from that opinion? It was a good game, and it was best when you had to argue in support of a point of view that was completely opposed to what you yourself thought.
Arguing for inappropriate and wrong points of view. That's why it was such fun writing the speech given by Grace's father James Caan at the end of the film, where he expounds the shortcomings of humanism. I was just trying to persuade myself of the opposite of what I personally stand for. It was great fun!
I'm very happy with the exchange between Grace and her father, where he says people are like dogs, and she replies that dogs act according to their nature and that we must understand and forgive them. And her father replies: "Dogs can be taught a lot of good things, but not if we forgive them every time they follow their nature.
LVT Yes, he's thoroughly cynical. But then so am I. My very first film, the short film The Orchid Gardener, opened with a caption stating that the film was dedicated to a girl who had died of leukaemia, giving the dates of her birth and death. That was entirely fabricated. A complete lie.
Lars von Trier Is Sorry for 'Dogville,' But Should He Be?
I know, I know, I still need to get the cast names in there and I'll be eternally tweaking it, so if you have any corrections, feel free to drop me a line. You won't hurt my feelings. The radio?! Just because the music's over and you might risk hearing something useful? Well, l need a rest, as you know Mock me if you like Tom's father had been a doctor and now received a modest pension so it was no great disaster for Tom to drift about not doing anything in particular Tom was a writer Well l could do without your lectures You know Vera Wouldn't give me a moment's peace till l said yes Who gave Moses that bone?
Dogville Script - Dialogue Transcript
Stig Bjorkman There are elements in Dogville that are reminiscent of classic Anglo-Saxon literature, from Fielding to Dickens, with the omniscient narrator's voice and the division into chapters, where the chapter headings give an idea of what is about to happen. Lars von Trier That's true, but it's more likely I had a book like Winnie the Pooh in mind when I was writing the screenplay. There, at the beginning of each chapter, you read things like, "In which Pooh and Piglet go hunting and nearly catch a Woozle", for instance. Things like that, which really get your imagination going. One of my favourite films is Barry Lyndon, which is also divided into chapters, although I don't remember if there are any clues as to what the chapters are going to contain. The screenplay of Dogville is divided into scenes. It might say, "The scene where this or that happens
'It was like a nursery - but 20 times worse'
This article is from the archive of our partner. Danish director Lars von Trier has a habit of putting his foot in his mouth in the most offensive way possible, most recently at this year's Cannes film festival when he said he identified with Hitler. Vulture notes that von Trier told reporter Nils Thoren of the Danish newspaper Politiken that he "[felt] badly about thinking that Dogville , which in my eyes is one of my most successful films, should have been a kind of script for Breivik. When the question comes up about whether he regrets for having made it, von Trier responds "[I]f it means that it had this effect, then I am sorry I have made it. Hollywood Elsewhere's Jeffrey Wells , for one, isn't entirely convinced that he should be. He may have a point.