Dogville , as the title cards tell us, is "told in nine chapters and a prologue" and as the narrator tells us, it "is the sad tale of the township of Dogville."
Dogville is a movie that brings great sadness through an exploration of human nature and the horrors we are capable of when given unbridled power. I'd give you the whole run down of what it's all about and all the social comments it makes, but others have already done that better than I probably could. While reading the various reviews, it struck me that very few of them even bother to mention one of the most obvious messages the story holds.
Most people, quite correctly focused on the incredible corrupting influence of power and the comments about human motivation and greed, while others focus on religious themes (in which Grace is a Christ figure) and/or accuse it (and the writer/director) of being an anti-American movie or anti-Christian movie. The obvious message that people seem to ignore is a suggestion that we can not change the moral standards and behaviours of others simply by adhering to a higher moral standard ourselves (in order to provide an example to others) and forgiving others for their (sometimes substantial) wrong doing. While I admit to not actually thinking my own ideologies through to any great extent, I would certainly consider myself somewhat of a pacifist. Though I wouldn't go to the same extent in my pacifism as Grace does in the movie1 I certainly hold the hope that a pacifist approach could be successful in improving moral standards. However, I take the point that for the approach to be effective, others who breach one's moral standards need to, at lest sometimes, be held to account. Of itself, the approach of turning the other cheek is unlikely to be effective.
The other thing that really impressed me was the way Dogville, as well as being a great movie, made me feel like I'd just read a great book and maybe even seen a fantastic play. The stage-like set (pictured), along with lighting effects, are used masterfully throughout the film and you soon realise just how much the minimalist, theatresque approach adds to it. The film is presented to the audience by a narrator and broken into nine chapters, each introduced by a title screen and a one sentence description of the events in the forthcoming chapter.
Dogville is a most excellent film and I highly recommend you see it, and maybe even buy it. Seriously.
- Although, in the movie we are led to believe her level of pacifism isn't necessarily her own choice, and she may have to some extent enforced her standards against others, if given the opportunity. [↩]