The Aardvark Speaks : essence, effervescence, obscurity. Established 2002. A weblog by Horst Prillinger. ISSN 1726-5320

December 07, 2003

A Brechtian non-movie

From the alienation effect created by the bare theatrical setting and the odd voice-over to the didactic message, Lars Von Trier's new movie Dogville has Bertolt Brecht written all over it, and just as Brecht does, Von Trier explores human nature and human exploitation from an odd analytic distance: his Dogville is no more in the USA than Brecht's Good Person of Szechwan is set in the real China or Saint Joan of the Stockyards in the real Chicago. Rather they are all just examples of universal characters that can be found in any place.

Von Trier's moral inquiry goes one step further than Brecht (whose protagonists typically fail), when he provides a cathartic ending that somehow feels good even though it is totally inappropriate in moral terms; and immediately before it, two characters discuss the concept of arrogance, in which they apply it to totally opposite characters, and yet both are right. Even if it's true that the villagers' best was not enough, who is Grace to decide this? Once she is in a position of power, is she not just as bad as the villagers - or perhaps even worse?

What is the story about anyway? Is it about a poor fugitive who is taken advantage of in the worst possible ways and who then takes bitter revenge, or is is about a group of poor villagers who are taking revenge on a rich girl, only to be beaten back into submission?

And the pictures of poor American farmers from the 1930s juxtaposed with American homeless of the 1990s during the end credits - are they meant as criticism or excuse?

If anything, the fact that the philosopher character, who claims he can see through everybody, is the most clueless person in the film should give you a clue that there are no answers in this movie, only questions, and as soon as you think you have an answer, you notice that you have been deceived.

In the end it all falls back to the question of arrogance that is discussed at the climax of the movie - but who exactly is it that's arrogant? Is it Grace, the gangster boss, the villagers, or is it you, the viewer?

Posted by The Duck on December 7, 2003 12:29 AM to reviews | Tell-a-friend

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