Friday, October 3, 2014

Extraordinary set of Lars von Trier's Dogville

      The first shot of the movie is from above, and it looks like a map, showing the setting of the world that at first can be quite hard to gasp. This is how we are introduced to The Dogville - a small town with a population of 15 people.

The story begins with the writer named Tom Edison, however, everything shifts when a runaway Grace Mulligan shows up at this desolate town. Tom decides to help Grace, who is running away from the gangster, and suggests her to stay at the Dogville. Grace agrees.  Through doing manual jobs for the people of Dogville, Grace gets the part in the small town's society. However, Grace differs from the rest of the characters, because the relationships that she made with the people of the town change through the movie and not to the better side. The extraordinary set helps to highlight the importance of that change to the story as the whole.

Dogville is not like other movies, and the director Lars von Trier creates the story, the conflict, escalation and other necessary fragments of the dramatic movie without using many props or extravagant sets.  The movie was shot in and confined to one space. We don't leave the sound stage where the movie was filmed. The set uses only 3 backgrounds: white for day, black for night, and red for the ending of the film. The small town is also "empty". We only see white lines that determine the boundaries of buildings or streets. Also, white words that indicate where we are in space (for example - Elm st. or Tom's house). The words can also specify the objects like "the dog", or "the bush". Overall, pretty much all the details are left for the audience's imagination: the look of the buildings, complete rooms, walls etc. We see only plain characters and their actions in the movie. This contributes to the director's goal for the audience to get to know the characters only through their personalities and actions.  No unnecessary interior details are added to help to convey the feelings or emotions.

At the beginning, Grace is loved. Everyone seems happy that she's there, but the story continues. As there are no walls and no restrictions, people seem to know everything: they should see what's happening at each of their neighbor's house. Everything seems pretty normal until we go into the second part of the movie. That's when we start to get what emotional impact the movie with this type of setting is able to convey.  The dramatic scene when we see Grace lying on the floor, the man raping her, and the rest of the town - just feet away, in the same shot, brings an awful feeling. Though some of us would justify the town's actions because allegedly there were invisible walls; however, everything changes when we move forward...

When it's revealed that the town knows about Grace being constantly raped by the men who live in the Dogville, we notice that town's obliviousness is still there. They don't care about Grace at all, and we realize the change of how they were treating her at the beginning, and at the second part of the movie. This happened just because of setting, and just because we were focusing on the personalities, specifics of the acting performance and the emotions of the scenes. The importance of this would be diminished, or at least not as huge as now, if there were a lot of additional stuff added to the film.

Overall, the movie is one of its kind and it's mostly because of the set and its design. There is a lack of objects, but this does not interfere with what the movie conveys, or its main dramatic purpose. In some cases even otherwise: it stands out and shows the tone of the movie. Helps to see the progress of the story, and how it switches from being a sad, but not really terrific to a completely devastating and mind-blowing.

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