Dogville (2003) Review

Happy 50th Birthday to Nicole Kidman!

Instead of a birthday Top Ten, I figured I should review Dogville since I watched it recently. Looking at Kidman’s films, there are still a few big ones I need to see before doing a Top Ten anyway so maybe I’ll do that list next year if I’m still blogging. It would be an interesting list as she’s done many different types of films but I’m pretty sure that my current favorites are the underrated To Die For, guilty pleasure Malice, and great ghost story The Others. I’ve never been a huge fan but Kidman has gone up in my estimation in the last few years and I thought she was really good in the Big Little Lies TV series, based on the Liane Moriarty book. I’m looking forward to seeing her in Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled.

Now let’s see what I thought of this three-hour-long Lars von Trier avant-garde play that explores human morality. Woohoo! PARTY! Dogville would make for a fun double feature with The Hateful Eight… 😉

Dogville (2003)

Directed & Written by Lars von Trier

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Lauren Bacall, Chloë Sevigny, Paul Bettany, Stellan Skarsgård, Udo Kier, Ben Gazzara, James Caan

Narrated by John Hurt

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A woman on the run from the mob is reluctantly accepted in a small Colorado town. In exchange, she agrees to work for them. As a search visits town, she finds out that their support has a price. Yet her dangerous secret is never far away…

My Opinion:

This is the third Lars von Trier film I’ve seen after Dancer In The Dark & Melancholia (which I reviewed HERE & which I quite liked. Sort of. I think…). His work is certainly not to everyone’s taste and, in looking up Dogville, critics’ reviews were either “this is a masterpiece” or “what a load of pretentious bollocks” (I’m paraphrasing there but it’s what they meant). I liked Dogville. I preferred Melancholia but both are unique and, so far, I like what I’ve seen of von Trier’s style and think we may have a similar view on people (although I think he seems to have even less faith in humanity than I do).

Dogville’s set up, as a play with very few props and where each house in the small town is shown as an outline from above, took less getting used to than I was expecting. The story & the acting were good enough to not really need props, special effects, etc. If you seriously hate plays I suppose you might not have the patience for this film. However, like with The Hateful Eight, this movie is unnecessarily long. Three hours! It wasn’t needed. I don’t think the extra time really added much depth to the characters – the story could have been told just as well with an hour shaved off. But I’m admittedly getting old & tired & too damn busy to sit through these extra long movies. Then again…. No. It IS too long, dammit. I’m not just being grumpy. When it’s necessary for the story, really great movies don’t feel too long. Seven Samurai doesn’t feel too long. Seven Samurai is a masterpiece.

Dogville is decent. I’m glad I sat through it (in three sittings). But it’s not a masterpiece and it’s not as important as it thinks it is. However, to automatically label it pretentious does seem unfair. Von Trier took a gamble on trying something different that certainly wouldn’t appeal to mainstream audiences (well, duh – that seems to describe all his films) but I think it worked pretty well overall for Dogville.

Kidman was very good and I loved John Hurt’s narration (I’ve added Dogville to My Top Ten John Hurt Movies list of all I’ve seen of his but it just misses out on being in the ten). Actually, Hurt’s voice was probably the very best thing about the film – I’m going to keep exploring his work that I missed out on. He was certainly an underrated actor. As for everyone else, they all did a very good job in making us hate the shit out of them. Paul Bettany had an especially interesting role as the only one who seemed to be on Kidman’s side but, although not directly unkind, he ends up the worst of the lot. I wanted to punch him in the damn face. So… Yeah. You’re meant to hate these characters. And you will. So they all succeed in their roles but, of course, it doesn’t make for a pleasant three hours. It’s a film worth a watch but you’ll need to be in the right frame of mind before giving this one a go. I liked the concept and von Trier’s attempt to explore humanity and what could happen if we had the ability to completely take advantage of someone in need. Would we treat them kindly or not? Von Trier obviously thinks not. I wonder why he hates people so much?! But, I must admit to really liking how this film ends so maybe I’m not so different from the residents of Dogville. Which I suppose is von Trier’s obvious point. But, seriously – he could’ve gotten that point across in well under three hours. 😉

My Rating: 7/10

**Just thought I’d add this bit I read at Wikipedia, as I was unaware that this film is meant to be the first part of a trilogy:

The film is the first in von Trier’s projected USA – Land of Opportunities trilogy, which was followed by Manderlay (2005) and is projected to be completed with Washington.

I liked Dogville okay but doubt I can be bothered to watch the rest, unless the final one gets rave reviews when it’s finally made… I think I’ll next check out those Nymphomaniac films instead. Which also look like loads of fun. PARTY! 😉

The Dinner by Herman Koch (Book Review)

I’m reviewing the book The Dinner by Herman Koch as the movie is released today in the U.S. There’s currently no U.K. release date scheduled. The movie was directed by Oren Moverman & stars Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Steve Coogan, Rebecca Hall, Adepero Oduye & Chloë Sevigny.

The Dinner by Herman Koch

What It’s About: (via Amazon)
It’s a summer’s evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Between mouthfuls of food and over the polite scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse — the banality of work, the triviality of the holidays. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened.

Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. The two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act; an act that has triggered a police investigation and shattered the comfortable, insulated worlds of their families. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children. As civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple show just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.

My Thoughts:

I liked this book but it’s probably not for everyone. I’ll avoid plot spoilers but I’ll tell you that none of the characters are very likable, which puts a lot of readers off (including me, usually). The story was intriguing enough to keep me reading, however, and it’s not a long book so it’s a pretty quick read. It might be worth your time if the plot synopsis interests you. However, it’s also the type of story that should work well as a movie so, if it’s a decent adaptation, you might want to skip the book. I’ll let you know if the movie does the book justice (if the movie ever gets a U.K. release date)! It’s a film I’m definitely wanting to check out as it’s one I feel could possibly improve on the book if handled well. The cast seems promising.

I liked the way the story was presented as courses instead of “Chapters”: Appetiser, Main, Dessert, etc etc (I can’t remember all the posh terms for all the different courses. Never knew there were so many courses to a fancy meal!). We slowly learn more & more about the four adults having this meal together while the story of the horrible act commited by their teenage sons comes to light.

I’m not going to say much more as the story is pretty straightforward and there’s not much more I could say anyway without spoiling it. I’ll say it’s a decent character study but doesn’t explore all the moral implications as much as it could have. By the end, it felt more shallow than I was hoping for. That’s why I’m hopeful for the possibility of a really good film adaptation as there’s some meaty material here for a really good set of screenwriters & actors to sink their teeth into. We’ll see. The Dinner isn’t as deep & meaningful as it could’ve been but it’s still an intriguing story told in a fairly original way and I’d say I enjoyed it more than several of the other 13 books I’ve read so far this year.

My Rating: 3/5

**Yes, I’m keeping a list of all the books I’ve read so far this year. At the moment, this is probably how I’d rank them (from least favorite to favorite). If you really want to know… 😉 I hope to review them all by the end of the year:

14. The Sisters by Claire Douglas
13. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
12. The Circle by Dave Eggers
11. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
10. The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
9. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
8. Finders Keepers by Stephen King
7. The Dinner by Herman Koch
6. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
5. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
4. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
3. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
2. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
1. Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie

(And, yes, I’m focusing on reading books that have been movies/TV shows recently or will be very soon) 🙂