Dogme 95

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Dogme 95
Years active1995–2005
CountryInternational, started in Denmark
Major figuresLars von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg, Kristian Levring, Søren Kragh-Jacobsen, Jean-Marc Barr, Harmony Korine
InfluencesRealism, French New Wave
InfluencedMumblecore, New Puritans, Philippine New Wave

Dogme 95 was a controversial filmmaking movement started in 1995 by the Danish directors Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg, who created the "Dogme 95 Manifesto" and the "Vows of Chastity" (Danish: kyskhedsløfter). These were rules to create films based on the traditional values of story, acting, and theme, and excluding the use of elaborate special effects or technology. It was supposedly created as an attempt to "take back power for the directors as artists", as opposed to the studio.[1] They were later joined by fellow Danish directors Kristian Levring and Søren Kragh-Jacobsen, forming the Dogme 95 Collective or the Dogme Brethren. Dogme (pronounced [ˈtʌwmə]) is the Danish word for dogma.


Lars von Trier (left) and Thomas Vinterberg (right), the founding fathers of Dogme 95.

Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg wrote and co-signed the manifesto and its companion "vows". Vinterberg said that they wrote the pieces in 45 minutes.[2] The manifesto initially mimics the wording of François Truffaut's 1954 essay "Une certaine tendance du cinéma français" in Cahiers du cinéma.

They announced the Dogme movement on March 13, 1995, in Paris, at Le cinéma vers son deuxième siècle conference. The cinema world had gathered to celebrate the first century of motion pictures and contemplate the uncertain future of commercial cinema. Called upon to speak about the future of film, Lars von Trier showered a bemused audience with red pamphlets announcing "Dogme 95".

In response to criticism, von Trier and Vinterberg have both stated that they just wanted to establish a new extreme: "In a business of extremely high budgets, we figured we should balance the dynamic as much as possible."[3]

The first of the Dogme films (Dogme #1) was Vinterberg's 1998 film Festen (The Celebration). It was critically acclaimed and won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival that year. Lars von Trier's Dogme film, Idioterne (The Idiots), also premiered at Cannes that year but was less successful. Since the two films were released, other directors have made films based on Dogme principles. French-American actor and director Jean-Marc Barr was the first non-Dane to direct a Dogme film: Lovers (1999) (Dogme #5). American director Harmony Korine's film Julien Donkey-Boy (Dogme #6) is also considered a Dogme film. In total, thirty-five films made between 1998 and 2005 are considered to be part of the movement.

The end credits of Het Zuiden (South) (2004), directed by Martin Koolhoven, included thanks to "Dogme 95". Koolhoven originally planned to shoot it as a Dogme film, and it was co-produced by von Trier's Zentropa. Finally, the director decided he did not want to be so severely constrained as by Dogme principles.

Since the late 2000s, the emergence of video technology in DSLR photography cameras, such as the Canon EOS 550D, has resulted in a tremendous surge of both feature and short films shot with most, if not all, of the rules pertaining to the Dogme 95 manifesto. However, because of advancements in technology and quality, the aesthetic of these productions typically appears drastically different from that of the Dogme films shot on Tape or DVD-R Camcorders. Largely erasing the primitive and problematic features of past technologies, newer technologies have helped Dogme 95 filmmakers achieve an aesthetic of higher resolution, as well as of lower contrast, film grain, and saturation.

Goals and rules[edit]

The goal of the Dogme collective is to "purify" filmmaking by refusing expensive and spectacular special effects, post-production modifications and other technical gimmicks. The filmmakers concentrate on the story and the actors' performances. They claim this approach may better engage the audience, as they are not "alienated or distracted by overproduction". To this end, von Trier and Vinterberg produced ten rules to which any Dogme film must conform. These rules, referred to as the "Vow of Chastity", are as follows:[1]

  1. Shooting must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in (if a particular prop is necessary for the story, a location must be chosen where this prop is to be found).
  2. The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa. (Music must not be used unless it occurs where the scene is being shot.)
  3. The camera must be hand-held. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted.
  4. The film must be in colour. Special lighting is not acceptable. (If there is too little light for exposure the scene must be cut or a single lamp be attached to the camera.)
  5. Optical work and filters are forbidden.
  6. The film must not contain superficial action. (Murders, weapons, etc. must not occur.)
  7. Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden. (That is to say that the film takes place here and now.)
  8. Genre movies are not acceptable.
  9. The film format must be Academy 35 mm.
  10. The director must not be credited.

″Furthermore I swear as a director to refrain from personal taste! I am no longer an artist. I swear to refrain from creating a “work”, as I regard the instant as more important than the whole. My supreme goal is to force the truth out of my characters and settings. I swear to do so by all the means available and at the cost of any good taste and any aesthetic considerations. Thus I make my VOW OF CHASTITY.″[4]

Uses and abuses[edit]

The above rules have been both circumvented and broken from the first Dogme film to be produced. For instance, Vinterberg "confessed" to having covered a window during the shooting of one scene in The Celebration (Festen). With this, he both brought a prop onto the set and used "special lighting". Von Trier used background music (Le Cygne by Camille Saint-Saëns) in the film The Idiots (Idioterne). Korine's Julien Donkey-Boy features two scenes with non-diegetic music, several shot with non-handheld, hidden cameras and a non-diegetic prop. Von Trier, however, praised the film's transgressions on an interview released on the Epidemic DVD.

Like the No Wave Cinema creative movement, Dogme 95 has been described as a defining period in low budget film production.[5]

Since 2002 and the 31st film, a filmmaker no longer needs to have their work verified by the original board to identify it as a Dogme 95 work. The founding "brothers" have begun working on new experimental projects and have been skeptical about the later common interpretation of the Manifesto as a brand or a genre. The movement broke up in 2005.[6]

Notable Dogme films[edit]

Dogme certifikate for Susanne Bier's "Elsker dig for evigt" (Open Hearts, 2001), Dogme No. 28.

A complete list of the 35 films is available from the Dogme95 web site.[7]

Use of concept[edit]

The 2001 experimental film Hotel, directed by Mike Figgis, makes several mentions of the Dogme 95 style of filmmaking, and has been described as a "Dogme film-within-a-film".[8][9]

The use of 'Dogme 95' style filming is in a list of a hostage taker's demands in the Black Mirror episode, "The National Anthem".

Keyboard player and music producer Money Mark used principles inspired by Dogme 95 to record his Mark's Keyboard Repair album.[10]


In 2015, the Museum of Arts and Design celebrated the movement with the retrospective The Director Must Not Be Credited: 20 Years of Dogme 95. The retrospective included work by Lars von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg, Jean-Marc Barr, Daniel H. Byun, Harmony Korine, Kristian Levring, Annette K. Olesen, and Lone Scherfig.[11][12]

Notable directors[edit]


Although the movement was dissolved in 2005, the filmmakers continued to develop independent and experimental films using or influenced the concept including Jan Dunn's Gypo and Brillante Mendoza's films Serbis, Tirador, and Ma' Rosa.[13]

Much of Von Trier's works with influence of Dogme 95 manifesto, the first film was Breaking the Waves, after his founding of the Dogme 95 movement, it is heavily influenced by the movement's style and ethos, although the film broked many of the movement's "rules", including built sets, post-dubbed/original music and computer graphics, which laid out by the movement's manifesto. Other films he developed including Dancer in the Dark, The Five Obstructions, Antichrist, Melancholia, The House That Jack Built.[14]

Vinterberg's 2012 film, Jagten, also influence of Dogme 95 manifesto, but the widescreen film format and musical score did not occur the rules.[14]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b Utterson, Andrew (2005). Technology and Culture, the Film Reader. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-31985-0.
  2. ^ Krause, Stefanie (2007). The Implementing of the 'Vow of Chastity' in Jan Dunn's "Gypo". Verlag. ISBN 978-3-638-76811-5.
  3. ^ Sfectu, Nicolae (2014). The Art of Movies.
  4. ^ "THE VOW OF CHASTITY | - A tribute to the official Dogme95". Retrieved November 16, 2020.
  5. ^ Coulter, Tomas (2004). "Low-budget movements that defined cinema": 26. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. ^ Kristian Levring interview (via Internet Archive)
  7. ^ "Dogme Films | - A tribute to the official Dogme95". Archived from the original on December 31, 2017. Retrieved December 31, 2017.
  8. ^ Brook, Tom (April 6, 2002), "Figgis unlocks Hotel's secrets", BBC News, archived from the original on February 3, 2014, retrieved February 1, 2014
  9. ^ Ebert, Roger (September 26, 2003), Hotel, Roger Ebert, archived from the original on February 20, 2014, retrieved February 3, 2014
  10. ^ "Interview with Money Mark - Ableton". Archived from the original on May 2, 2018. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  11. ^ "The Director Must Not Be Credited: 20 Years of Dogme 95". Museum of Arts and Design. Museum of Arts and Design. Archived from the original on July 26, 2015. Retrieved August 5, 2015.
  12. ^ Berman, Judy. "What Dogme 95 did for women directors". The Dissolve. Pitchfork Media, Inc. Archived from the original on July 26, 2015. Retrieved August 5, 2015.
  13. ^ Stevenson, Billy (January 26, 2019). "Mendoza: Ma'Rosa (2016)". cinematelevisionmusic. Retrieved September 24, 2022.
  14. ^ a b Lazic, Manuela (December 14, 2018). "The Hell That Lars von Trier Built". The Ringer. Retrieved September 22, 2022.

External links[edit]