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Dogville (2003)Dogville (2003)—Danish

           In this much-maligned film, the Danish writer and director Lars von Trier paints a dark portrait of the human spirit in both its communal and individual dimensions. He suggests that lurking beneath our veneer of social respectability, and even our best of intentions, there is something wild and dangerous deep in the human heart. Grace (Nicole Kidman) is a fugitive on the run from gangsters who seeks refuge in Dogville, a tiny town of fifteen people set in the Colorado Rockies at the turn of the century. At first petty, suspicious, and insular, after a two-week trial the citizens loosen up and provide Grace the haven she seeks. But eventually the town turns on her, viciously, despite the many ways she has served them. Grace forgives them, the victim blaming herself, and then later undergoes her own moral transformation and exacts vicious retribution. The victim becomes the new oppressor. This film watches more like a movie of a play. The entire production takes place on one, large sound stage. The town streets, bushes, etc., are mere chalk lines. The houses are sparse frames without doors. John Hurt narrates the successive "chapters." At 177 minutes, the film is long. Critics tended either to love or hate this film, but either way, von Trier is far and away one of the most important film makers today, so it is always interesting to see his latest creation.

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