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March 22, 2004


I think von Trier intended to make a comment on American society, but that what he produced with Dogville is a condemnation of what we know as a 'small-town mentality'. It's interesting to look at the Special Features part of the Dogville dvd, and see how some of the actors felt about the little community in operation in the making of the film!

I was very intrigued by the Biblical references in this film and the opposing ideas of redemption and apocalypse.

A very important conversation is that between Grace and her father, which seems to cast light on her stoicism during her suffering. She ran away from him after accusing him of arrogance in his violence, and he accuses her of even greater arrogance in her belief that nobody can live up to the high standards of behaviour that she sets for herself, and that therefore everybody should be forgiven.

Grace and her father seem like a vengeful old testament God speaking with the martyred Christ. He offers her power, which she does in the end accept in order to cleanse the town. Until then she speaks a lot about forgiveness and redemption, but the final apocalypse implies that there is no more tolerance for human weakness and cruelty.

Before she arrives Tom prophetically thinks of the town's need to accept a "gift". Grace arrives to "illustrate" his point. She seems to be God's gift to the town. However instead of proving the basic decency of the townsfolk she instead reveals their cruelty and avarice. Offering herself generously, she ends up being their scapegoat and slave.

I don't agree that this film is anti American. It seems more universal than that. Issues such as slavery, corruption and exploitation are part of every society. The name "Grace" implies forgiveness and mercy, and through the film this is what Grace offers until finally she accepts her father's offer of power to cleanse the town.

The "dog" in the movie is called Moses, the Old Testament character who lead the Israelites out of slavery, had the Red Sea destroy the Egyptians, and brought the Ten Commandments to mankind. Grace herself is treated like the dog, chained and mistreated. I very much liked the final shot of the imaginary dog becoming real, the only surviver of the massacre and the one whose barking had warned the town upon Grace's arrival.

I need to watch this again a few times, but I must say that I found the final apocalypse very satisfying. I'm not sure whether von Trier is suggesting hope or damnation to mankind, but if it is damnation it certainly felt like a necessary purification.

Mae made a salient point that Ed Gonzalez had once already clarified: Dogville is more universal than mere anti-Americanism. I can not commend this film enough.

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