Director: Lars von Trier
Year Released: 2003
A lashing assault on modern politics, reminding me of that quote that liberals are simply young conservatives (or that a liberal is a conservative that hasn't been wronged in some grievous manner), and that isolation, economic stagnation and groupthink produce terrifying results. The town of Dogville takes in Grace (Nicole Kidman), accepts her on their conditions (that she kowtow to them), and then goes through a variety of emotional stages (the town behaves collectively; a wrong against one ignites all): anxiety, fear, verbal mistreatment, sexual abuse and finally physical torture. Grace suffers their attacks even while believing in them as 'good people' - she isn't a person as much as a symbol of naïve faith in humanity - until the purely brilliant ending, which reveals the power she has over all of them, even from the beginning - the power to do as she pleases with them (by making her escape in the beginning, she tried to run from harsh reality), and her emotional and political leap from liberal to coldly conservative and borderline fascist. Von Trier could be accused of being ideologically repulsive and unforgivably cynical in his constructing the town in such a way - there are no purely 'good' people, only pleasure-seeking men and gossiping, ignorant women - and yet the decision to create them like that somehow makes sense in the allegorical world of Dogville, where the collective curiously views her suffering as a part of her 'payment' for their hospitality, and are unable to judge their own actions, only hers. The growing mass of anti-Von Trier critics and closed-minded types will want to skewer this (I admit some of his films have left me particularly cold), but it really is a grand, deeply personal achievement.