Before Lars von Trier was a “shock-director” that added sexual violence in his films to gain attention for being controversial, he was actually a very good independent film director. Dogville is possibly the best example of Von Trier's aesthetic pre 2009's Antichrist. It features a fantastic idea, nearly flawless imagery and directorship, and possibly the greatest lead female performance of the last decade. It does add its own deal of shock-value towards the end, but it isn’t unnecessary at all and is shot in a very tasteful way- especially considering the way that von Trier has gone lately. The real focus behind Dogville isn’t really how it’s executed, but mainly the plot which flows as if it were a book. It’s best to go into this one with no prior knowledge at all or you might be severely disappointed.
The way that Dogville is filmed is very different. Honestly, it’s probably the strangest way of filming that I’ve ever experienced in my life. The scenes don’t flow together like an ordinary film. Almost every cut starts with the character in a different position than they were in the one before. This causes you to doubt that the scenes flow in a flawless manner and instead makes you think that maybe there has been more in between each cut that you didn’t see. This is a great exmaple of film experimention, similiar to the experimental nature of mid-60's rock and roll. This could be frustrating, but that’s not even the strangest part about the way Dogville is filmed. The strangest part is the set. The whole movie is filmed inside of a soundstage. In the soundstage there are chalk drawings to indicate the borders of each building and names on the streets. It’s sort of like a map, but the characters act as if the walls and other items that you can’t see are actually there. This is hard to deal with at first, but soon you start to appreciate that everyone behind the film worked with the small amounts that they were given.
The fact that Dogville was filmed in a bland setting (purposefully) and had little to no color doesn’t take away from the fact that everything is beautiful inside of the film. It also didn’t affect the performances of the cast, particularly Nicole Kidman who gave the greatest performance of her career and probably the most compelling female lead role of the last decade. She effortlessly goes from being happy to being depressed. Rumors state that Von Trier treated Kidman like the character she was portraying and this really shows.
Dogville is a film that I will never forget. From the beautiful imagery that works with so little to create so much, to the fantastic acting of every member of the cast, and especially the disturbing events that occur throughout the film, it is simply an unforgettable experience. It is also a film that every person interested in making low budget movies should watch. If you think that you need a certain amount of anything to make a film good, Dogville shows that you can work with literally nothing and make a masterpiece.