Negative review by Plexico Burress
Dogville is about what happens when an innocent fugitive, imagine Nicole Kidman with a scared look on her face, finds herself in a tiny depression era town in rural Appalachia. The film is shot like a play, all on one set. There are no walls, for example, and characters open and close pretend doors. Thereís even a chalk outline of a dog, which you can hear barking. Itís all very neat, at first, as patterns of behavior are revealed one after another from one character to the next. But soon the film becomes tiresome if not outright predictable as we are treated to like six of each pattern! I mean, life may be a box of chocolate, but do we really have to eat all of them?
Also the *mood shifts* seem, at least to this reviewer, overly contrived. Itís one thing to have characters who embody both good and evil at the same time. Itís another to illustrate the slow transition from good to evil (Star Wars, The Player). But Von Trierís thespians switch from one extreme to the other so easily youíd think it was raining Jeckyll and Hyde powder. Or it could be theyíre following a script? In fact, the whole thing would have worked better if they really had been walking around holding scripts. Lars didnít go far enough! Six cherry-liquor filled chocolate truffles is enough.
Dogville smells of meaning and depth, but it really is about as simplistic as your basic above average morality play. The whole discussion at the end about forgiveness and vengeance really was some first rate philosophical gobbledygook. Can you imagine such a conversation between God and Jesusófresh off the cross? Iím thinking no. Probably not really much to say at that point. Of course, Von Trier feels otherwise. His mistake, therefore, is that instead of just trying to have a movie that feels like a play, he actually is trying to have both a movie and a play at the same time. Dogville wants you to suspend your disbelief (movie) long enough to fall for its characters, but then it wants you to bend over and take it like a Swede when it comes to your heavy-handed moral bludgeoning (play). And it fails because you just canít have both. I swear. If you donít believe me, watch Dogville by Lars Von Trier.
And finally, the way the film ends allows us to indulge our basest urgesóand without any price to pay! Thus, Von Trier, to his own delight, witholds the most basic and important lesson his film could have offered. That would have been the lesson of Ingmar Bergmanís The Virgin Spring, which covered most of the same themes more deeply and with a lot less talking.