Dogville – Grace’s Dilemma

Dogville is a sort of mise en abyme ; a filmed theater play. As a decor; spaces defined with chalk, basic home furniture and cars. The set is a big studio, which walls go black when it is night, and white when it is day.
Obviously sound plays an important role; sounds of inexistant doors getting open and closed, rain, or even sounds of grass being dig out of the ground.

Handheld shot, it is the only applied rule of Dogma 95. Dogville contains many match cuts, however, it isn’t disturbing due to the very unusual setting and composition of the film.
Divided in nine chapters, Dogville is narrated by John Hurt relating the story of Grace (Nicole Kidman) who, trying to escape some gangsters, finds a refuge in the small town of Dogville, isolated from the city, situated in the periphery.

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 8.36.48However, it isn’t that easy being accepted right away in a town composed of just fifteen people, where everyone knows each other, and you’re supposedly being chased by gangsters.

Lars von Trier exploits the idea of “the fear of the outsider” and then make Grace’s character go through several challenges; the first one being a two weeks trial. Indeed, after being rescued by Tom (Paul Bettany), who under the charm of the fragile blond, introduces her to the others and get from them a two weeks period in which Grace would have to prove her harmlessness and goodwill. For that, she’ll do whatever chore is assigned to her, and since Dogville citizens couldn’t find any useful things for her to do, they made her do things that wasn’t done already.

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 8.50.34However, just like a Haneke movie things are never that easier. It quickly turns into a sort of vicious sadomasochistic games she’ll be blackmailed with.
Jason (Miles Purinton), one of the seven kids of an unhappy couple, starts the festivities by asking Grace to spank him, and if she didn’t accept, he’ll tell his mother she hit him, but if she does he’ll keep his mouth shut. A perverse but paradoxical game putting pressure on Grace’s psychology.

Things got even more bitter as time went by.

Another paradox rises; with the venue of the fugitive into the lives of those isolated people, she becomes the object of desire of all men, and as mentioned by Liz (Chloë Sevigny), who was before her, the most coveted girl, Grace relieved her from that awful position. However, either they want to admit it or not, the blond woman, towards who all the attention is turned, represents a threat and rouses jealousy.
As it wasn’t enough, Grace gets raped by the men (except Tom, who pretends to be in love with her), as if they couldn’t hold their impulses any longer and as if it was their right.

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 9.26.48The movie forms a loop where the black-skinned cleaning lady who was presented as the being at the end of the social ladder, started to even herself yell and order Grace to execute all sorts of chores that weren’t supposed to be useful before her arrival. Indeed, most of her contribution wasn’t irreplaceable, but suddenly it wasn’t even enough.

Lars von Trier, explained and even made a hyperbole out of it by putting our main character as sort of immigrant, getting a bad treatment from natives.
Grace embodied a sort of modern Cosette/Cinderella character, or more accurately a Justine from Sade’s novel.

The idea wasn’t how a town was supposed to trust a stranger but how a stranger was supposed to trust a community. A community of dogs, answering to their own primary instincts and desires, dogs constituting Dogville.

In a nutshell, despite its long length, Dogville is a must-see Lars von Trier’s.

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Stoker – A gothic tale.

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I was very excited when I bought Stoker from the DVD store. I thought “Hey! First Park Chan-wook‘s english film, I must try this thing.”

Nicole Kidman (Evelyne Stoker) in a big house, close to the mansion’s structure, pale green of the walls; this few things reminded me the atmosphere of The Others directed by Alejandro Amenábar. But then, came her teenage girl India (performed by Mia Wasikowska) and I said “Oh my God, this is a character running away from the Adam’s family!” This blending of style and cinematographic references (Hitchcock‘s Shadow of a Doubt) were very attractive and Park Chan-wook was, once again, offering us a different menu; however it is again about revenge.

Indeed, the story is about, a family torn apart when the father (the handsome Dermot Mulroney) dies in a “car accident”, and his brother, the so-called uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) came into the lives of the widow and the fatherless girl.
The relationship mother/daughter is defective, they are more represented as rivals than family and we can feel some jealousy between the two. Therefore, when Charlie came, the mother, literally jumped into his arms, and India, at the first place seemed more suspicious about this uncle who came from nowhere, but the more we go deeper and deeper in the movie, the more we ask ourselves “maybe, India is jealous, and angry about this uncle who choose her mother over her”. Thus, when he tried to get close to her niece , she rejected him, again and again.
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That’s when the most beautiful scene of the movie is showed. She was playing the piano, and Charlie came (again from nowhere) to play with her; and at this specific time, a duet was formed. They kept playing and playing this bewitching music, with from time to time some scary tones in it. And it felt like it was more than a duet; it felt like the music was the fruit of sexual tension or action; India was having sex with her uncle through the piano, and when she was close to reach the orgasm, her uncle stopped, and disappeared.
But the girl was somehow relieved, from something, even if we don’t know what yet.

The incest in the movie is trivialized, or at least used as an element of horror. The obsession the uncle had for India for years and all the manipulative actions he took to get close to her, was quite frightening. Until where sociopaths can go to get something which had been forbidden for a very long time?

We are spectators of the India’s initiation to crime. Her uncle killed, in front of her, a boy who was trying to rape her. He strangled him. And when she came home that night, she went to the bathroom to clean herself; and at first, I thought she was crying in the shower, but something totally different was happening…  She was masturbating thinking of the murder, and reached the orgasm when finally she came to the part where the neck of the boy broke.
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Here again, Park Chan-wook directed a disturbing but somehow fascinating scene, alternating different shots. It is unquestionable that Mia Wasikowska is perfect in movies where she has a relationship with someone older, and is doing a perfect job performing those roles. She seems pure, discrete and reclusive; but this is only outwardly. She develops through the film an admiration for this men who came suddenly into her life, and who is so different from his father, and had this attractive craziness, and captivating look into his eyes. Wasikowska might be representing one of the greatest actors of her time (even if sometimes, her tastes in movies can be discussed).

Every character in the movie is bringing mystery and awkwardness, and the whole atmosphere, the crimes, those different characters, all of this was kid of reconstituting the Cluedo (the deduction board game). We, spectators, knew about the weapon used by the murderer, and who it was, but we were watching the others finding out. Only the dead father brought some humanity and love to the film, and to India, preventing her, while he was alive, of finding she had a killer nature. He was controlling this.

We cannot be disappointed by Park Chan-wook’s work, even if you didn’t like it this much, you always find something which was worthing watching the movie. And this is the most important thing in a filmmaker’s work: trying his best to attract by any way the spectator’s eyes.
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