Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Lars von Trier|
|Produced by||Vibeke Windeløv|
|Written by||Lars von Trier|
|Narrated by||John Hurt|
|Cinematography||Anthony Dod Mantle|
|Editing by||Molly Marlene Stensgård|
France 3 Cinéma
|Distributed by||Lions Gate Entertainment|
|Running time||178 minutes|
Dogville is a 2003 Danish drama film written and directed by Lars von Trier, and starring Nicole Kidman, Lauren Bacall, Chloë Sevigny, Paul Bettany, Stellan Skarsgård, Udo Kier, Ben Gazzara and James Caan. It is a parable that uses an extremely minimal, stage-like set to tell the story of Grace Mulligan (Kidman), a woman hiding from mobsters, who arrives in the small mountain town of Dogville, Colorado, and is provided refuge in return for physical labor. Her stay there ultimately changes the lives of the local people and the town in many ways.
The film is the first in von Trier's projected USA – Land of Opportunities trilogy, followed by Manderlay (2005) and to be completed with Wasington. The film was in competition for the Palme d'Or at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival but Gus Van Sant's Elephant won the award. It was screened at various film festivals before receiving a limited release in the US on March 26, 2004.
Plot structure 
Dogville is a very small American town by an abandoned silver mine in the Rocky Mountains with a road leading up to it and nowhere else to go but the mountains. The film begins with a prologue in which we meet a dozen or so of the fifteen citizens. They are portrayed as lovable, good people with small flaws which are easy to forgive.
The town is seen from the point of view of Tom Edison Jr., an aspiring writer who procrastinates by trying to get his fellow citizens together for regular meetings on the subject of "moral rearmament." It is clear that Tom wants to succeed his aging father, a physician, as the moral and spiritual leader of the town.
Chapter 1 
- In which Tom hears gunfire and meets Grace
It is Tom who first meets Grace Mulligan, who is on the run from gangsters who we are led to believe shot at her. Grace, a beautiful but modest woman, wants to keep running, but Tom assures her that the mountains ahead are too difficult to pass. As they talk, the gangsters approach the town, and Tom quickly hides Grace in the nearby mine. One of the gangsters asks Tom if he has seen the woman, which he denies, and so the gangster offers him a reward and hands him a card with a phone number to call in case Grace shows up.
Tom decides to use Grace as an "illustration" in his next meeting—a way for the townspeople to prove that they are indeed committed to community values, can receive a gift, and are willing to help the stranger. They remain skeptical, so Tom proposes that Grace should be given a chance to prove that she is a good person. Grace is accepted for two weeks in which, as Tom explains to her after the meeting, she has to convince the townspeople to like her.
Chapter 2 
- In which Grace follows Tom's plan and embarks upon physical labor
On Tom's suggestion, Grace offers to do chores for the citizens—talking to the lonely, blind Jack McCay, helping to run the small shop, looking after the children of Chuck and Vera, and so forth. After some initial reluctance, the people accept her help in doing those chores that "nobody really needs" but which nevertheless make life better, and so she becomes a part of the community.
Chapter 3 
- In which Grace indulges in a shady piece of provocation.
In tacit agreement, she is expected to continue her chores, which she does gladly, and is even paid small wages in return. Grace begins to make friends, including Jack, who pretends that he is not blind. Grace tricks him into admitting that he is blind, earning his respect. After the two weeks are over, everyone votes that she should be allowed to stay.
Chapter 4 
- Happy times in Dogville
Things go smoothly in Dogville until the police arrive to place a "Missing" poster with Grace's picture and name on it on the mission house, the mood darkens slightly. The townspeople are divided as to whether they should or should not cooperate with the police.
Chapter 5 
- Fourth of July after all
Still, things continue as usual until the 4th of July celebrations. After Tom awkwardly admits his love to Grace and the whole town expresses their agreement that it has become a better place thanks to her, the police arrive again to replace the "Missing" poster with a "Wanted" poster. Grace is now wanted for participation in a bank robbery. Everyone agrees that she must be innocent, since at the time the robbery took place, she was doing chores for the townspeople every day.
Nevertheless, Tom argues that because of the increased risk to the town now that they are harboring someone who is wanted as a criminal, Grace should provide a quid pro quo and do more chores for the townspeople within the same time, for less pay. At this point, what was previously a voluntary arrangement takes on a slightly coercive nature as Grace is clearly uncomfortable with the idea. Still, being very amenable and wanting to please Tom, Grace agrees.
Chapter 6 
- In which Dogville bares its teeth
At this point the situation worsens, as with her additional workload, Grace inevitably makes mistakes, and the people she works for seem to be equally irritated by the new schedule – and take it out on Grace. The situation slowly escalates, with the male citizens making small sexual advances to Grace and the females becoming increasingly abusive. Even the children are perverse: Jason, the perhaps 10-year-old son of Chuck and Vera, asks Grace to spank him, until she finally complies after much provocation. Soon thereafter the police, believing they have found a clue—a cap—linking Grace to the town, discuss this with some of the residents on the street. Chuck walks to his house where Grace is watching his children, and threatening to turn her in if she resists, rapes her. The police leave after being told the cap does not belong to Grace, but it has become obvious that she is hardly able to defend herself against exploitation of the townsfolk.
Chapter 7 
- In which Grace finally has had enough of Dogville, conspires to leave town, and again sees the light of day.
After Tom proposes his idea to help her escape, Vera blames Grace for spanking her son Jason and for seducing her husband Chuck. In revenge, Vera threatens to destroy the porcelain figurines Grace purchased with her hard-earned wages from the local town shop. Grace begs for mercy and reminds Vera how she taught her children about the philosophy of stoicism. In response, Vera challenges Grace to demonstrate her own stoicism by not showing any emotion as Vera destroys two of the figurines. After Vera destroys them, Grace is unable to hold back her tears and Vera proceeds to destroy all seven of the figurines. With the symbol of her belonging in the town now gone, Grace knows she must escape. She bribes the freight truck driver Ben to smuggle her out of town in his apple truck. En route, Ben climbs into the back of the truck where she is hiding and tells her he must charge her a "surcharge" for harboring a police fugitive—and then extracts the surcharge from her by raping her—after which the truck lumbers only to return Grace to Dogville.
The town agrees that they must not let her escape again. The money paid to Ben to help Grace escape had been stolen by Tom from his father—but when Grace is blamed for the theft, Tom refuses to admit he did it because, as he explains, this is the only way he can still protect Grace without people getting suspicious. It is at this point that Grace's humiliating status as a slave is fully confirmed as she is collared and chained to a large heavy iron wheel which she must drag around with her, preventing her from moving anywhere outside of Dogville, and a bell is attached to the collar to announce her presence wherever she goes. The townsmen rape her each night, and the children ring the bell after each visit.
Chapter 8 
- In which there is a meeting where the truth is told and Tom leaves (only to return later).
This culminates in a late night general assembly in which Grace—following Tom's suggestion—relates calmly all that she has endured from everyone in town. Embarrassed and in complete denial, the townspeople finally decide to get rid of her. When Tom informs Grace to console her, he attempts to have sex with her, having been the only adult male townsperson who has not done so. Grace, however, refuses to have sex with him. Angry partly at Grace's rejection, but even more at himself for his realization that he would eventually stoop to force himself upon her like everyone else in the town, Tom ends up personally calling the mobsters, and later proposes to unanimous approval that she be locked up in her shack.
Chapter 9 and ending 
- In which Dogville receives the long-awaited visit and the film ends
When the mobsters finally arrive, they are welcomed cordially by Tom and an impromptu committee of other townspeople. Grace is then freed, and we finally learn who she really is: the daughter of a powerful gang leader who ran away because she could not stand her father's dirty work. Her father confronts her in his Cadillac and tells her that she is arrogant for not holding others to the same high standards to which she holds herself. At first, she refuses to listen, but as she leaves the car and contemplates the discussion she has just had with her father, she looks again upon the town and its people, and is compelled to agree: she would have to condemn them to the worst possible punishment if she held them to the standards to which she held herself, and it would be self-righteous yet hypocritical not to. Her conclusion is confirmed when Tom then speaks to Grace; though he confesses fear as to what the gangsters will do to the town, he expresses no actual remorse or regret about his actions. His suggestion that the two have learned a great deal about human nature from his betrayal of Grace result in her returning to her father's car with the decision that Dogville must be wiped off the face of the Earth.
She then accepts her role as her father's daughter and orders that the whole town be eliminated. In particular, she gives the order to have Vera look on at the murder of each of her children, with the message that the killings will stop if she can hold back her tears. The film ends in a crescendo of violence. The town is burned and all its citizens are murdered by the gangsters on direct order from Grace, with the exception of Tom, whom she executes personally with a revolver. As the ashes of Dogville smolder around her, she finds and spares the only surviving resident, Moses the dog, the only resident not to have wronged her, who had disappeared while the town was revealing its true nature.
- John Hurt as Narrator
- Nicole Kidman as Grace Margaret Mulligan
- Lauren Bacall as Ma Ginger
- Chloë Sevigny as Liz Henson
- Paul Bettany as Tom Edison, Jr.
- Stellan Skarsgård as Chuck
- Udo Kier as The Man in the Coat
- Ben Gazzara as Jack McCay
- James Caan as The Big Man
- Patricia Clarkson as Vera
- Shauna Shim as June
- Jeremy Davies as Bill
- Philip Baker Hall as Tom Edison, Sr.
- Blair Brown as Mrs. Henson
- Željko Ivanek as Ben
- Harriet Andersson as Gloria
- Siobhan Fallon Hogan as Martha
- Cleo King as Olivia
- Miles Purinton as Jason
Dogville: The Pilot was shot during 2001 in the pre-production phase to test whether the concept of chalk lines and sparse scenery would work. The 15-minute pilot film starred Danish actors Sidse Babett Knudsen (as Grace) and Nikolaj Lie Kaas (as Tom). Eventually Lars von Trier was happy with the overall results. As a result, he and the producers decided to move forward with the production of the feature film. It is featured on the second disc of the Dogville (2003) DVD, released in November 2003.
The story of Dogville is narrated by John Hurt in nine chapters and takes place on a stage with minimalist scenery. Some walls and furniture are placed on the stage, but the rest of the scenery exists merely as white painted outlines which have big labels on them; for example, the outlines of gooseberry bushes have the text "Gooseberry Bushes" written next to them. While this form of staging is common in black box theaters, it has rarely been attempted on film before — the Western musical Red Garters (1954) and Vanya on 42nd Street (1994) being notable exceptions. The bare staging serves to focus the audience's attention on the acting and storytelling, and also reminds them of the film's artificiality. As such it is heavily influenced by the theatre of Bertolt Brecht. (There are also similarities between the song "Seeräuberjenny" ("Pirate Jenny") in Brecht and Kurt Weill's Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera) and the story of Dogville. Chico Buarque's version of this song, Geni e o Zepelim [Geni and the Zeppelin], deals with the more erotic aspects of abjection and bears striking similarity to von Trier's cinematic homage to the song.) The film does however employ carefully designed lighting to suggest natural effects such as the moving shadows of clouds, and sound effects are used to create the presence of non-existent set pieces (i.e. there are no doors, but the doors can always be heard when an actor "opens" or "closes" one).
The story of Dogville is given in 9 chapters and a prologue, with a description of each chapter given as it takes place in the film. These descriptions are given above.
Ebert and Roeper criticized Dogville as having a strongly anti-American message, citing, for example, the closing credits sequence with images of poverty-stricken Americans (taken from Jacob Holdt's documentary book American Pictures, 1984) accompanied by David Bowie's song Young Americans. In 2009, American director Quentin Tarantino named the film as one of his top 20 films that have been made since he has been directing. He is also said to believe that, had the film been written for the stage, von Trier would have won a Pulitzer prize.
According to von Trier, the point of the film is that "evil can arise anywhere, as long as the situation is right."
The film grossed $1,535,286 in the US market and $15,145,550 from the rest of the world for a total gross of $16,680,836 worldwide. In the opening US weekend it did poorly, grossing only $88,855. The movie was released in only nine theaters, however, with an average of $9,872 per theater. In Denmark, the film grossed $1,231,984. The highest-grossing country was Italy, with $3,272,119.
|Award||Category||Recipients and nominees||Result|
|Bodil Awards||Best Danish Film||Lars von Trier||Won|
|Best Actress||Nicole Kidman||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor||Stellan Skarsgård||Nominated|
|Robert Award||Best Costume Design||Manon Rasmussen||Won|
|Best Screenplay||Lars von Trier||Won|
|Best Editor||Molly Marlene Stensgård||Nominated|
|Best Film||Lars von Trier||Nominated|
|Best Cinematography||Anthony Dod Mantle||Nominated|
|Best Production Design||Peter Grant||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor||Stellan Skarsgård||Nominated|
|Best Director||Lars von Trier||Nominated|
|Cannes Film Festival||Palme d'Or||Lars von Trier||Nominated|
|European Film Awards||Best Cinematographer||Anthony Dod Mantle||Won|
|Best Film||Lars von Trier||Nominated|
|Best Director||Lars von Trier||Nominated|
|Best Screenwriter||Lars von Trier||Nominated|
|Chlotrudis Awards||Best Cast||Cast of Dogville||Nominated|
|Best Screenplay||Lars Von Trier||Nominated|
|Goya Awards||Best European Film||Lars von Trier||Nominated|
|Russian Guild of Film Critics||Russian Guild of Film Critics Golden Aries Award for Best Foreign Actress||Nicole Kidman||Won|
|Best Foreign Film||Lars von Trier||Won|
|Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists||Best Director||Lars von Trier||Nominated|
|Guldbagge Award||Best Foreign Film||Lars von Trier||Nominated|
|Golden Trailer Awards||Best Independent||Lars von Trier||Nominated|
|David di Donatello||Best European Film||Lars von Trier||Won|
|Copenhagen International Film Festival||Honorary Award||Lars von Trier||Won|
|Cinema Brazil Grand Prize||Best Foreign Film||Lars von Trier||Won|
|Cinema Writers Circle Awards, Spain||Best Foreign Film||Lars von Trier||Won|
|Guild of German Art House Cinemas||Best Foreign Film||Lars von Trier||Won|
|Sofia International Film Festival||Best Film||Lars von Trier||Won|
Top ten lists 
- 1st – Mark Kermode, BBC Radio Five Live
- 2nd – J. Hoberman, Village Voice
- 3rd – Overall, Village Voice
- 4th – Dennis Lim, Village Voice
- 5th – Jack Mathews, New York Daily News
- 8th – J.R. Jones, Chicago Reader
- n/a – David Sterritt, Christian Science Monitor
- n/a – Ron Stringer, LA Weekly
- "DOGVILLE (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 2003-10-14. Retrieved 2013-02-06.
- "Festival de Cannes: Dogville". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-11-05.
- Dogville: The Pilot on IMDb
- Marit Kapla: Our Town. Filmmaker Magazine, June 11, 2002.
- Dogville, by Roger Ebert
- Quentin Tarantino's Top 20 Favorite Films
- Scott, A. O. (2004-03-21). "'Dogville' – It Fakes a Village". NYTimes.com. Retrieved 2010-02-25.
- Dogville (2003) Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved on 28 March 2010.
- "Dogville (2004)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2010-02-25.
- 2004 Film Critic Top Ten Lists Retrieved on 28 March 2010.
- Georg Tiefenbach: Drama und Regie (Writing and Directing): Lars von Trier's Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark, Dogville. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann 2010. ISBN 978-3-8260-4096-2.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Dogville|
- Official website
- Dogville at the Internet Movie Database
- Dogville at AllRovi
- Dogville at Box Office Mojo
- Dogville at Rotten Tomatoes
- Dogville at Metacritic
- Dogville at AboutFilm.com: analysis by Carlo Cavagna
- On the Nature of Dogs, the Right of Grace, Forgiveness and Hospitality: Derrida, Kant, and Lars Von Trier's Dogville by Adam Atkinson
- Newsweek review
- BBC Collective review
- Dogville, or, the Dirty Birth of Law theoretical essay