Dogville (2003) is one of the most iconic films from infamous director Lars von Trier. Someone calls it unreasonably cruel, but the plot has a deep meaning. According to the director’s idea, nothing should distract the viewer from the main ideas. The film is more like a performance – the houses of the townspeople are depicted schematically, and the main emphasis is on the dialogues and the character of the characters.
What is the movie Dogville about?
One day, a beautiful girl named Grace appears in the small town of Dogville. It becomes clear that she is hiding from someone, and the inhabitants provide her with shelter and protection. In gratitude, the heroine does various jobs for them, and at first everything goes well.
Soon, the people of Dogville begin to mock Grace, turning her into their slave. The girl resignedly endures all the torment until her father, who turned out to be a powerful gangster, arrives in the city. The daughter tried to run away from him and start a new life, but after a long conversation, Grace agrees to return to the family. But before that, she severely punishes the townspeople – kills them and wipes Dogville off the face of the Earth.
Meaning of the movie Dogville
The plot of the picture is ambiguous, like the rest of the director’s work, but there are several philosophical theses that are clearly traced in the plot.
Is sacrifice always justified?
Numerous biblical parables, memories of wars and other stories tell us about people who sacrifice themselves for others. They become great martyrs, heroes and acquire eternal memory, but psychologists say that in real life this does not always “work”.
Grace sincerely believes that the people of Dogville have done her a favor, so why not sacrifice free time for them? But this turns out to be a mistake. The townspeople demand more and more victims, and as a result, they make a weak-willed slave out of the girl, satisfying their whims and dirty desires.
Relationships where sacrifice is present almost always develop according to the laws of psychology. First, the one who sacrifices himself justifies and sympathizes with the other side, indulging all whims and blaming himself for suffering. Over time, relationships become toxic, and addiction develops between people, which develops into hatred, which eventually finds a way out. And, as you know, there is no more cruel executioner who was previously a victim.
The iconic moment of the film: Vera, one of the residents of the town, breaks Grace’s only treasure – porcelain figurines. She says that if the owner of the figurines manages to hold back her tears, only two of them will be destroyed, and the rest will not be harmed. Grace fails the test and loses all statuettes. Later, the girl will do the same with the children of Vera: the kids are killed in front of their mother with the condition that if she can hold back her tears, the killings will stop.
Grace Milligan: temptress or martyr
The personality of the main character raises many questions. Who is Grace Milligan – an angel in the flesh or a devil in a female form who tempts the inhabitants of Dogville? All of them are ordinary people with their own vices and shortcomings, and after all, each person, under certain conditions, is able to cross the line.
The correct answer lies somewhere in the middle. Grace is the embodiment of a pagan goddess, merciful and cruel at the same time. She is trying to find a truly pure person among the townspeople, but, not finding him, she mercilessly destroys the entire city. There are parallels here with the biblical myth of Sodom and Gomorrah, only the role of Lot is played by the dog Moses – the only creature who never mocked Grace.
The perversity of human society
Immediately after the appearance of Grace in Dogville, the townspeople and the audience realized that she was hiding some kind of secret. The girl turned out to be the daughter of a powerful gangster who ran away from her father so as not to have anything to do with his dark deeds. She tried to start a normal life among simple, pious people with their simple joys and simple life. I wanted to find something bright and kind in the soul of each of the townspeople. From everything that happened to Grace afterwards, we can conclude that all attempts failed miserably.
The girl’s father blamed his daughter. In his opinion, she follows high moral principles, but does not require the same from others. Grace agrees with her father’s arguments, although the real reason lies in the depravity of any society (Trier was accused of ridiculing and demonizing American society, but everything he described can be found in any country).
The film takes place in the 30s of the last century, but we can say with confidence that people have not changed too much since then. They flaunt their decency and then commit cruel acts. They bully those who are on the lower rungs of the social ladder. They swear in selflessness, and then “squeeze out” all the juices from the one who was once rendered a service.
A striking example of double standards and hypocrisy prevailing in society is Tom, who claimed to be Grace’s lover. He dreams of becoming a writer, loves to talk about the human soul and at first treats the girl better than others, but then succumbs to general madness.
How does the movie Dogville ending?
The end credits play against the backdrop of successive shots from Jacob Holdt’s book American Pictures. They date back to the Great Depression and show the immorality, cruelty and oppression in American society. Will people be able to become kinder to each other and break the chain of cruelty that breeds even more cruelty? Lars von Trier does not answer these questions.