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Peter T Chattaway

Dogville

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Did anyone talk about the possibility that the conversation between Grace and the "Big Guy" represents a liberal and conservative perspectives, respectively? Matt has a partial trascription of the conservation, and the Big Guy sounds like a political conservative while Grace sounds like a liberal. A part of me (I'm not totally convinced) feels like the conversation can be seen as a criticism of liberals, particularly those in America (the West) in the following ways:

1. "Forgiving" criminal behavior (because of environment, etc.) is arrogant and condescending. The liberal stance is more about condescension than actual forgiveness;

2. The Grace changing her mind siding with her father represents liberals gave in to the ideology of the right, particuarly in the case of the Iraq war.

Again, I don't know if I totally buy this, but the conservation did make me think of a discussion between a liberal and conservative.

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I'm not sure I buy it either, but it IS an interesting interpretation, and given that Von Trier appears to mean it when he says that this is a film "about America", I think a more political interpretation of the film, as opposed to a theological interpretation, has its merits.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Did anyone talk about the possibility that the conversation between Grace and the "Big Guy" represents a liberal and conservative perspectives, respectively? Matt has a partial trascription of the conservation, and the Big Guy sounds like a political conservative while Grace sounds like a liberal. A part of me (I'm not totally convinced) feels like the conversation can be seen as a criticism of liberals, particularly those in America (the West) in the following ways:

1. "Forgiving" criminal behavior (because of environment, etc.) is arrogant and condescending. The liberal stance is more about condescension than actual forgiveness;

2. The Grace changing her mind siding with her father represents liberals gave in to the ideology of the right, particuarly in the case of the Iraq war.

Again, I don't know if I totally buy this, but the conservation did make me think of a discussion between a liberal and conservative.

It would seem the God of the Old Testament as well seems quite to the right, whereas Jesus of the New Testament to be quite liberal (especially given the time).

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The God of the Old Testament is WAY too complicated to be squeezed into either pigeonhole. Certainly his concern for the poor -- his official reason for destroying Sodom, BTW -- would seem to have more in common with the stereotypical Left than the stereotypical Right.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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That could definitely be debated ... often it's a right's argument that you have to take someone out for the greater good later, but all this is neither here nor there.

I truly think this film concerns itself with the confusing nature of God as presented in the Bible.

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I'm late to the party as usual. I was really consumed for days after viewing this. I can't claim to have a good handle on it but here are a few meandering thoughts. I don't think Grace is as much a "Christ Figure" as she is just what her name implies, grace. Lars seems to make a point early on that the people of the town don't believe they need Grace to help them out as they're all pretty self-sufficient but they quickly distorted their use for Grace.

Where Grace was there to help them, to lend a hand, they began to use her to do the things that they didn't want to do. In essence they used Grace as an excuse to become lazy instead of recognizing their need for her and how they themselves could actually become better people because of Grace. Then things got more ugly when Grace was expected, she was no longer a gift but an expected part of their lives and they couldn't function without her. Then the final turn came when Grace became exploited. It was worse than being expected she was now used to fulfill the selfish and grotesque desires of the townspeople. I took the final judgement to be the true justice that is coming.

I didn't feel that Von Trier hated humanity as much as he hates the exploitation of the gifts that we've been given. Grace was a gift to the town and she became a slave. The very literal rape of grace is seen every day. To cast it in a more spiritual light, the grace that we've been given through Christ is a gift. "Should our sin increase so that grace then increases?" The answer, of course, is no. And yet every time one of these jerk pastors goes around calling on the name of God to get them a better car, a bigger house, and more power they are exploiting the grace that we've been given to their selfish ends.

The film made me think that grace is something to be cultivated, to be cared for and given. Recieving grace brings with it responsibility. We shoudn't just sit back and wallow in the grace we've been given but we should recognize that the gift itself calls us to continue on in this life journey and realize that grace keeps us moving. To lean back rest on grace is how we expect it and then exploit it.

I hope some of this made sense. I'm just now beginning to see some things in Dogville that I hadn't before.


"Did you mention, perhaps, what line of industrial lubricants Jesus would have endorsed?"

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I truly think this film concerns itself with the confusing nature of God as presented in the Bible.

I don't find the nature of God confusing and I don't think Von Trier does either. For me, I think grace is confusing.

The nature of God in the OT is pretty cut and dried. He said, (and I paraphrase)"If you do this, then I'll bless you, if you don't do it then you're screwed." The people of Israel turned their back on God, a prophet would come in and say, "Look, God told you not to do that if you don't change your ways you'll get your asses kicked!" They didn't change their ways they got they're asses kicked, they cried out for helped, went through lengthy apologies, God showed them grace and they hit repeat. That's the story of 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles. Eventually God says that's enough and they're put down for good. Then Jesus shows up.

To get back to Dogville, I would even make the comparison to Israel. God constantly shows them grace, they constantly throw it back in his face, they use grace, abuse it and are judged accordingly. I wouldn't go so far as to say Von Trier was shooting for that but as I interpret the film the comparison would be logical. Of course if my interpretation is wrong then the comparison doesn't stand.


"Did you mention, perhaps, what line of industrial lubricants Jesus would have endorsed?"

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Ther are a lot of verses between there that make it a whole lot more complicated smile.gif

First he's mad and vengeful, needing strange sacrifices and calling for strange punishments for seemingly small things ... then Jesus comes along and says "that's in your heart now, here's another way to look at things ... forgiveness, caring, love" (For the most part) ... then the final return it looks like all hell breaks loose and God is back to vengeful ways ... bi-polar I guess.

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Michael,

Just to add to your interpretation, I believe Paul Bettany's character in the beginning says something about wanting to teach an object lesson to the townspeople, about accepting a *gift*.

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Michael,

Just to add to your interpretation, I believe Paul Bettany's character in the beginning says something about wanting to teach an object lesson to the townspeople, about accepting a *gift*.

Yeah, I remember him talking about that and then using Grace as this gift and in a way he theory about their inability to accept the gift was correct but they ended up going straight from acceptance to expectance. His character kind of confused me. I thought he may be a moral compass of sorts but then, IMHO, he ended up being worse than the rest of them.


"Did you mention, perhaps, what line of industrial lubricants Jesus would have endorsed?"

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God the Omnipotent Bi-polar Bear.

-s.


In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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God the Omnipotent Bi-polar Bear.

A bear would need to be bi-polar, to get mixed up with penguins.

Ah well, at least He isn't a cross-eyed bear.

Named Gladly.

Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Ther are a lot of verses between there that make it a whole lot more complicated smile.gif

First he's mad and vengeful, needing strange sacrifices and calling for strange punishments for seemingly small things ... then Jesus comes along and says "that's in your heart now, here's another way to look at things ... forgiveness, caring, love" (For the most part) ... then the final return it looks like all hell breaks loose and God is back to vengeful ways ... bi-polar I guess.

And that saying of Jesus is recorded where?

New headline: "Anthropomorphism hurled against God; penguins spared"

Well that's the general thought ... I could find a verse as well (give me a bit), but that Jesus came and fulfilled the prophesy and that the law didn't quite bind as before (the strict law/adherance, etc).

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Ther are a lot of verses between there that make it a whole lot more complicated smile.gif

First he's mad and vengeful, needing strange sacrifices and calling for strange punishments for seemingly small things ... then Jesus comes along and says "that's in your heart now, here's another way to look at things ... forgiveness, caring, love" (For the most part) ... then the final return it looks like all hell breaks loose and God is back to vengeful ways ... bi-polar I guess.

I didn't mean to make it appear that God was not complicated. Just that in my reading of the OT recently I've been struck by how merciful God is. His wrath comes after the people didn't follow the instructions. The whole bizarre sacrificial system came first, then he got mad because they ignored it.

In 2 Kings 22 Josiah was repairing the temple and some priests brought him the book of the law and he read them and fell down in repentence, basically saying, "Oh this is why we're such a mess we haven't been doing what God said." So he read the law and cleaned up the nation and God blessed them again. They had gotten so far from following what God said that the king himself didn't even know the book said. I wouldn't call God vengeful in the sense that he just freaks out and kills everyone because he's pissed. He told what would happen before hand and they ignored it.

Edited by MichaelRay

"Did you mention, perhaps, what line of industrial lubricants Jesus would have endorsed?"

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Jesus does not present another way of looking at things. The OT is filled with forgiveness, caring, and love. Jesus is QUOTING the OT (link link) when he summarizes the law as "Love...God...and love your neighbor"

What about Ananias and Sapphira being killed by Peter in the NT? Filling the whole church with 'great fear'? Where's the forgiveness caring, and love? Isn't that a "strange punishment for a seemingly small thing"?

BUT, the law-on-the-heart, gospel of grace would only be possible BECAUSE the OT provided an understanding of God' justice, satisfied in Jesus. It's not Jesus' teaching that took things in a whole new direction (implying contradiction), but rather Jesus' person that satisfied the requirements of the Law. God is still very concerned with justice and, if you will, vengeance.

What Alan said.

In the NT, there is MORE grace and mercy than in the OT -- AND ALSO stricter judgment and severer punishment. The OT offers grace and mercy as well as justice and wrath (Abraham was justified by faith; David deserved to die for his sin but was spared); the NT offers more of both.


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Ever since I watched Dogville last week, I have this lingering - not exactly haunted - feeling. I still do not know quite what to make of the spiritual or religious applications here, but I do know I am definately left with something strong.

Grace or grace or a lack of it or a perversion of it. I don't know what.

It's not a peaceful feeling I'm left with. At the end of Bresson's "Diary of a Country Priest" I am peaceful because he says "All is Grace."

But here I don't know what I am left with except it is something strong and it has be troubled.

Sara

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These days I find myself more and more irked by inscrutable movies. Why can't a director just come right out and say what's on his mind? Why can't he just declare on what side of the fence he sits? I must have watched Donnie Darko twenty times now, and I still can't decide if it is genuinely spiritual, or just so much hot air and whimsy. Maybe some people find such ambiguity a turn-on, but I think it is becoming harder and harder for a Christian to put his hand on his heart and say "this film is meant for me".

Dogville is another annoying puzzle. Is it a political film, or a Christian one, or both? If it actually is a religious film, is it for us, or against us, or both? I watched it again recently, and I still couldn't decide, but I found the dialogue that James Caan delivers about the arrogance of forgiveness so troubling that last night I decided to spend a few hours reading back through this thread and also rummaging through the reviews at the Movie Review Query Engine. My "Eureka!" moment came when I read this summation of the movie by "GA" at Time Out:

The final scene, with its Capone the Father and Christ the Daughter associations equating the Land of Freedom with Sodom and Gomorrah, has an infectiously wicked glee that almost redeems the preceding portentousness.

I personally think that's about right. It makes the most sense to me, especially after Manderlay. I no longer buy the Christian parable/allegory idea. Dogville is just a one-dimensional political film, and not a spiritual one.


We are part of the generation in which the image has triumphed over the word, when the visual is dominant over the verbal and where entertainment drowns out exposition. We may go so far as to claim that we live in an age of the image which is also the age of anti-word and potentially is the age of the lie. ~ Os Guiness

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17)

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IM, I'm with you for the most part. I found it to be a "spiritual" film only in that it was satirizing what I believe to be a very common and decidedly unspiritual attitude -- the desire for righteous vengeance. I hate to hear people (and Christians, especially) praise films like Braveheart and Gladiator as "stories of honor and bravery," when they're really just violent revenge flicks. I could feel the audience around me breathe a collective sigh of relief when Grace got her vengeance at the end of Dogville. That attitude disturbed me as much as the film did. (Shades of A History of Violence.)

As to your other point, I like ambiguity when I trust the artist (not sure if von Trier fits the bill). When I don't trust the artist, "ambiguity" comes off as laziness or inept filmmaking.

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Why can't a director just come right out and say what's on his mind? Why can't he just declare on what side of the fence he sits?

Sometimes the director is making a film about a question. He's exploring a subject without trying to "declare" anything. When films start "declaring" things, I start drawing back. If an artist wants to declare something, he should write an editorial.


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

 

"Forget it, Jake. It's Funkytown."    

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I don't know, Jeffrey, I see no questioning here. Surely abstraction, if that's what it is, should signify something? I think there is a growing tendency amongst the trendy young things (think P.T. Anderson, think Richard Kelly) to keep their messages fuzzy (if indeed they even have a message to begin with) in order that they will come across as being deeper than they are. Their abstractions are whimsy; they serve no purpose.

In the specific case of Dogville, I don't believe that von Trier is being deliberately ambiguous in order to provoke or stimulate thought or discussion (even though that is what occurred in this very forum). After all, he does call his film the first part in a trilogy about the USA, and he hammers this point home by playing Young Americans over the end credits. It's pretty clear, then, what HE thinks the film is about. The trouble is that he is a complete hack, so the movie is a mess that inspires muddled thinking. A minute spent pondering Dogville is a minute too long (unless one shares his hatred of America, of course. I, however, do not).

Let me go back to P.T. Anderson for a moment. As you may know, I adore both Magnolia and Punch Drunk Love, but I also can't help but feel that there is a degree of The Emperor's New Clothes about them both. Anderson keeps things fuzzy, adds a splash of the surreal, and we all start hunting for deep significance, and before you know it these films are invested with a weight and a depth that they probably don't possess. All those references to Exodus in Magnolia were added as an afterthought, and I, for one, don't think that they sit too comfortably next to all the Fortean stuff. I doubt that Anderson himself knows with crystal clarity what Magnolia is about, or what he is actually saying; and neither, it is clear, does Richard Kelly on Donnie Darko.

Want to know why there's all that blue light in Punch Drunk Love? Because Anderson saw something similar in Three Colours Blue and figured it looked cool. That's it. Moreover, the pretty pastel light show that occurs shortly after the start of the film (and looks like its going to lead into the credits but actually doesn't) directly parallels those odd fades to black in Kieslowski's film. Sounds far fetched? Then watch Magnolia and Three Colours Red back to back. Anderson rips Kieslowski off wholesale (not just in the montage sequences, but also in ideas: both films conclude with storms, and close with a woman fighting back tears to smile into the camera, etc.).

Better for a director to declare himself and let us pick the bones out of his original ideas (if he has any) than for him to bamboozle us with superficial obscurity.

Edited by The Invisible Man

We are part of the generation in which the image has triumphed over the word, when the visual is dominant over the verbal and where entertainment drowns out exposition. We may go so far as to claim that we live in an age of the image which is also the age of anti-word and potentially is the age of the lie. ~ Os Guiness

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17)

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Sorry, an error: It is Blue not Red that ends in tears.


We are part of the generation in which the image has triumphed over the word, when the visual is dominant over the verbal and where entertainment drowns out exposition. We may go so far as to claim that we live in an age of the image which is also the age of anti-word and potentially is the age of the lie. ~ Os Guiness

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17)

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Sometimes the director is making a film about a question. He's exploring a subject without trying to "declare" anything. When films start "declaring" things, I start drawing back. If an artist wants to declare something, he should write an editorial.

I wasn't referring to Dogville specifically when I wrote this. I was merely arguing that an artist needs to "declare" something. Often, the artist doesn't know what the work is about until it is finished, and even then he may not know. Many artists are drawn by questions and mystery, and their work is an attempt to express or make manifest something that can't be reduced to paraphrase. Art serves to show us that words are not enough.

I doubt that Anderson himself knows with crystal clarity what Magnolia is about, or what he is actually saying; and neither, it is clear, does Richard Kelly on Donnie Darko.

And I don't believe they have any responsibility or duty to know. Their job is to do the art. It is up to us to do the interpretation. If we conclude that there's no "there" there, then the artist may not be tapping into anything true, or their art may not be appreciated for generations... or, perhaps they just aren't very good. But the inability of the viewer to immediately seize upon a clear meaning does not mean the artist has failed.

Want to know why there's all that blue light in Punch Drunk Love? Because Anderson saw something similar in Three Colours Blue and figured it looked cool. That's it.

Did he come right out and admit this? If not, then making this claim about his method is presumptuous.

I have some ideas about what the color-washes mean in the story, but I like the question marks of the thing. And even if Anderson didn't have any "meaning" in mind, what's wrong with some whimsy in design, or an experiment with a new kind of segue? I like hearing various interpretations of the color-washes. The film has proven so meaningful and personal to me, with so many things that people have called "arbitrary" connecting to communicate something powerfully to me, that I'm willing to give Anderson the benefit of the doubt. Punch-drunk is one of my favorite films, and one of my favorite to discuss with other viewers. It would be better for you to say "I don't get it" than to say "it's nonsense."

Moreover, the pretty pastel light show that occurs shortly after the start of the film (and looks like its going to lead into the credits but actually doesn't) directly parallels those odd fades to black in Kieslowski's film. Sounds far fetched?

No, but if something proved meaningful for Anderson in watching another person's film, there's a world of precendent set by other artists that says it's okay to borrow or even steal ideas if they work for your film. Many of the great filmmakers have clearly stolen ideas from other films, and proudly admitted it. So long as the artist is using it in their own personal way, and not merely copying and trying to take credit for something done by someone else, I don't see a problem here. The Beatles borrowed from Bryan Wilson. Does that make them frauds?

Then watch Magnolia and Three Colours Red back to back. Anderson rips Kieslowski off wholesale (not just in the montage sequences, but also in ideas: both films conclude with storms, and close with a woman fighting back tears to smile into the camera, etc.).

But in severely differing circumstances, presented differently, with entirely different storeis, and serving profound purposes in both films. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Better for a director to declare himself and let us pick the bones out of his original ideas (if he has any) than for him to bamboozle us with superficial obscurity.

Again, I think it's arrogant to declare these methods as inarguably superficial and obscure... especially when I have had so many discussions and read so many reviews in which people were bedazzled by how beautifully this stuff all works together to create a meaningful whole.

It would be one thing to stand in front of one of those Magic Eye paintings and say, "It's just a bunch of dots. there's no 3-D picture there at all, and the artist is lying when he says that there is." It's another thing to say "I don't see the image, personally, but others do, and I'm willing to say that this just isn't working for me." The person who declares "there's nothing there" reveals more about themselves to the people who do get something out of it than they reveal about the art.

Edited by Jeffrey Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

 

"Forget it, Jake. It's Funkytown."    

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