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Monday, October 13, 2008

More Dogme 

Speaking of someone not writing about what they know, I've just seen a good example in Lars von Triers' “Dogville”.

For a start, making a story about a town is always a bit dodgy. It slips into easy allegory and the faults in that—the very frailty of attempted allegory—threaten to make nonsense out of everything.

Then the whole stage idea: I think you get unintended effects. It calls attention to itself, so you'd better have cast-iron ideas and actors to play with, and this doesn't. The argument is very thin. I really can't help thinking that the director himself and his writers didn't have a clear idea of what they were doing, but were more in love with the concept. I also think the lighting and the props weakened it further. What's the value of having people being raped in (as it seems) full view of people in the street?

Then the sub-Brechtian stuff, with very weak, worn-out smug unfunniness such as “...Elm Street—though no elm had ever cast its shadow in Dogville”, “Being a man of many ideas and proclivities”, and the chapter subtitle gag, which was somewhat funny when the Beatles did it in “Chapter One, In Which Doris Gets Her Oats”, but is nothing but tedium now.

Then the faux-folksy dialogue lifted from old movies and bad old plays: “Don't give me any of your lip, Thomas Edison Junior.” All this stuff ripped from Faulkner or some other bore.

Those might seem like trivial things, but they are very hard to get past when the movie itself isn't doing anything. Also, it's doubly fucking annoying that somebody thought that this might be amusing, and it's triply fucking annoying that there are gasbags who do find it amusing and encourage this garbage by buying tickets and acting as a claque for the director. They ought to stay home and chuckle over G.B. Shaw.

Then there's the setting problem. Are these people farmers or miners or what? How do they live? Why are they wandering around the streets all day? Where could they be going? For that matter, how come the cops are unfamiliar with the town and its people?

And the general theme, as far as I understand it, is piddling. The townsfolk were wicked, so they get destroyed by their former victim? Who cares? Seriously, so what? That's a problem with vengeance things. It's like a story about a guy who got stung by a bee so he swatted it. Zzzzzz.



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