2010-01-24

Dogville

Yesterday was devoted to roast chestnuts, fondue and Dogville. A film I'd happily watch again. I always ask what the message or subtext of a film is. I've come to the conclusion that Dogville could only be made about a time and place where the police are corrupt, rather than forming part of an impartial leviathan. In that sense it joins the great majority of films that rely on a Hobbesian 'state of nature'.

Grace's father says she is arrogant because she doesn't retaliate when people wrong her, rather she rationalizes their behaviour by saying that they're a victim of their environment. He calls this arrogance because it implies that she is morally superior because she can choose to do the right thing, but they cannot. Her father thinks that everyone is equally capable of making moral choices, so when they do, they should face the consequences.

If someone crosses Grace's father, he doesn't excuse them, he shoots them. In the end, Grace performs a volte face, and does the same.

This 'law of the jungle' is only right if you're in the jungle. A better arrangement is to have a Hobbesian leviathan to dispense justice. Then everyone is better off.

The only problem is that films about people dutifully following the correct bureaucratic procedures to ensure the due process of law are boring.

There's more I want to say, but I don't like to go on, so here it is in bullet points:
  • The film is too long. If it were published under a CC license I'd shorten it by about an hour.
  • I didn't really before, but now I like Nicole Kidman.
  • Each resident of Dogville abused Grace. Was Tom the worst because he engineered the whole thing to provide material for his writing?
  • The unusual staging of the film worked brilliantly. The only off-note was the miming of the opening and closing of doors.

2 comments:

  1. "The only problem is that films about people dutifully following the correct bureaucratic procedures to ensure the due process of law are boring." - 12 Angry men, boring or exception that proves your rule?

    I've always liked Nicole Kidman!

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  2. Good point about Twelve Angry Men. In fact, most police dramas are about the due process of law. Maybe I should have said *many* films only work because there's no effective state in their world (or people just fail to call the police).

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