Tuesday, December 16, 2014
In the film Dogville directed by Lars von Trier in 2003 Grace (Nicole Kidman), a young woman, finds refuge in the small town of Dogville only to find that it was not necessarily the safe haven it seemed to be. As the film progresses we learn of not only her past, but of the dark reality beyond the tropes of a normal american town.
I feel that the setting of Dogville is a visual articulation of the ignorance and transparency experienced within a small town.
Set completely on a soundstage the set of the town is marked with a white paint of sorts that define the walls, doors, and certain pathways within the town. This white marking makes the whole town almost completely two dimensional and from a birds eye view looks like a blueprint rather than an actual town. Within the white markings there are indicators of certain streets such as "Elm St." and each building is titled accordingly to what it is used for such as "Ben's Garage".
Although most of the towns components are pantomimed there are a few components that are an actual three dimensional presence within the space. This includes the bench where Tom, a writer from the town, spends much of his time pondering his existence within and beyond Dogville. Other physical elements include the small statuettes that Grace collects from one of the stores and the bell that rung each hour to mark the passing of time within the town.
Without many walls between the buildings within Dogville are completely transparent, at least to the audience. The townspeople on the other hand act as if they are there are solid pieces of material blocking them away from the world, a wall that they can hide behind. This minimalist stage also forces the audience to pay acute attention the the performance of the characters and their emotional journeys rather than distracting them with pretty scenery. My question is do they actually believe that there are walls or are they just choosing to act as if they are there so they don't have to deal with the consequences of seeing what they don't want to see? In my opinion, the themes of the movie point to the later. In line with Von Triers usual critical view on American society, the towns people further become a symbol of how Americans deal with their problems, simply by refusing to acknowledge it. Without complete walls, one would think this town would be incredibly communicative and a community of good natured people. This is actually what we are introduced to, the idea of a perfect town, a town that Grace thinks is perfect, of close knit people working together to make their city a functioning, welcoming community. This notion is completely shattered as Grace is able to look beyond the invisible walls they have each built as she is overworked, underpaid, and treated cruelly by the citizens. The artificiality of the stage also is a direct connection the artificiality of the town.