Dogville

Dogville is what happens when a town whose will is to have no will is greeted by an extreme willful saint who wants to fix everything. The result of this aligned opposition is that both sides threaten the other, with a lot of murder being the consolation for the loser when she no longer wishes to pursue the battle.

Its too bad Dogville wasn’t instead visited by someone who treated it like the experiment it is, and examined it over time to learn from it. After all, many (inanimate) things have no wills, but neither dogs nor anything else have the will to not have a will…

Or visited by someone who took the more effective offensive tactic of trying to bestow in them a will rather than abusing them for not pursuing one.

“See! I can see! You’re the one who is blind!”

I was going to respond to this, but then I remembered who I was talking to, so I’d like to clear something up first: Did you actually see Dogville, Brian, or is this another one of your psychic movie reviews?

I could debate either way, but I do happen to have seen this movie.

As I said before, there are many ways to learn about a movie (and thus be able to comment on it) without seeing it. Kinda like humans know about the Grand Canyon without visiting it.

“THAT’S IT! I refuse to debate the Grand Canyon with anyone who has not actually visited it!”

Visiting the Grand Canyon can be useful. Talking about the Grand Canyon can be useful. Watching a documentary on the Grand Canyon can be useful. Doing library research on the Grand Canyon can be useful. There are countless ways to learn about the Grand Canyon, one of which is a visit.

What happens with a visit to (and lets say a detailed examination of) the Grand Canyon is a different experience than you typically get from other sources. So you can see, for example, a close look at the changing light on the rock as the sun rises, or feel different emotions in the immediate presence of such an environment, etc. However, none of this invalidates experience gained from elsewhere, nor does it serve as the gateway by which you can DEBATE the subject.

madkevin: Did you actually see the Grand Canyon, Brian, or is this another one of your psychic topographical reviews?

Can you tell if I’ve visited the Grand Canyon? Can you tell if I’ve watched a documentary on it? Can you tell if I’ve debated it before? Can you tell if someone has told me about it?

No particular method of learning matters… EVERY instance of learning differs in its quality and this quality is NOT necessarily dependent on the form of learning.

For example, lets say someone is dead drunk, is driven up to the Grand Canyon, and glances out a foggy window at it. He’s SEEN the Grand Canyon! Whoa… now according to you this guy is more able to debate the Grand Canyon than a scholar of it from Denmark who hasn’t yet had occasion to make a visit. But no problem… you talk to the “knowledgeable” drunk guy and I’ll speak to the “ignorant” scholar.

madkevin, with a determined scowl to the scholar: “Have you SEEN the Grand Canyon?”

Koontz is right. The only question is why anyone even bothers to make movies, since we can clearly gain just as much by debating confused, third-hand descriptions of movie scripts.

“Terminator is in fact a modern twist on the story of Oedipus, in which our hero, the Terminator, travels backwards in time to kill the aunt archetype, Sarah Conner, and have sex with the father archetype, Skynet.”

Koontz is right if all you want to debate is the movie’s running time.

You can gather objective data about the Grand Canyon by reading a book - how deep it’s deepest part is, when it was formed, etc - but to be able to speak intelligently about it, in anything more than the most general way, you have to go see it.

Ditto for movies.

Otherwise you’re just a mimeograph spewing data from other sources that you’ve run through the mangle of your brain and chopped up into Koontz-sized pieces.

If you haven’t seen it for yourself then your input can only ever be peripheral.

And as I’ve said before, that’s only true if you want to debate things that tend to fall outside of the normal scope of criticism. Sure, you can talk about the shared communal symbology of what the Platonic ideal of the Grand Canyon means to America, or some such nonsense, but that’s not the same thing as talking about the actual fucking Canyon. If you want to talk about the first bit, you’ll have to wait until I get home from work because, currently, I’m not stoned.

More on Dogville later.

Your argument is still nonsense. A scholar of the Grand Canyon who has not visited it knows a LOT more than I do (who have visited it) about the Grand Canyon, despite the fact that in addition to visiting it I’ve read about it, talked about it, etc.

“Seeing the Grand Canyon” is in-itself a mediocre event. Nothing in life is so simple, so basic, so shallow, that you can just “see it” and know nothing else and be in better position than someone who hasn’t seen it and knows the context.

What I’m puzzled by is why you’re posting in this thread. You haven’t seen me and therefore according to you must know nothing about me, which must hamper your debating somewhat.

madkevin: to see it is to know it - there is no such thing as secondhand or abstracted knowledge

madkevin: books? books teach you about the book - nothing more

You should really go on tour with this new wisdom.

A scholar of the Grand Canyon who has not visited it talks about the “actual fucking Canyon” just as one does who has visited it.

Brian’s right. I mean, I’ve never met him and person, but I know he’s a pretentious, pompous fag.

I realize that you can only make arguments by strawman, but please try to concentrate, Brian. There’s a world of difference between discussing a movie as a text and a movie with regards to greater cultural impact.

Let’s say we’re talking about Jaws. It’s perfectly valid to discuss how the marketing and subsequent success of Jaws led to a massive change in how Hollywood viewed summer movie releases - it’s fair to say that Jaws is the first modern blockbuster. You can easily talk about this without ever having seen Jaws, because the “text” of Jaws is immaterial to that particular conversation.

That is not what you do. You confuse the text with the impact. For example, you can’t intelligently discuss the themes, or the cinematography, or the acting in a movie without actually seeing it. To think otherwise is mere Koontzian stoner talk.

According to you, it would be perfectly valid to discuss any of your arguments, such as they are, in this forum by blocking out your posts and simply reading the posts around it made by others. Your actual words are meaningless to The Brian Koontz Experience. (Incidentally, that’s totally the name of my new indie-rock band.)

And finally: if you have this mystical ability to understand the text of a book or a movie without ever having read/seen it, then why are you so invariably wrong about them?

Nice shot, I approve.

Nevertheless, as far as we are concerned “Brian Koontz” is a text generator and when we discuss it suffices to read his output to get a full experience of the art being criticized. A motion picture has elements of picture and motion, which need to be experienced to recieve the creator’s artistic message. Because art has a large emotional component it makes sense to actually view art as intended before discussing it.

Which I feel we have all done with Brian Koontz just be reading, without having to meet the theoretical “human” who operates the keyboard to create the work that is “Brian Koontz”

Anyway, back to Dogville:

I disagree with the basic assumption that Grace is there to “fix everything”. I don’t even think there’s nessesarily an impulse on Grace’s part to “impose her will” on the town. Rather, I think that Grace decides to allow the town to, for lack of a better term, reveal itself to her. She chooses to become (for reasons that are only really explained at the end) a focal point for the town’s collective desires.

One of the problems I had going into to Dogville was that it appeared at first to be another extension of the “beautiful girl destroyed by men” theme that von Trier seems to dig - see Breaking The Waves and Dancer In The Dark for variations. Stylistically, however, Dogville was so utterly bewitching that I was drawn into anyway. Of course, the joke was on me: von Trier pulls the rug under from that particular idea in the final act of the movie.

Anyway, unlike the protagonists of those earlier movies, Grace isn’t exactly helpless. She’s consciously choosing to accept charity, partly as a reaction against her father and partly out of, I feel, a geniune desire to examine what “being charitable” really means.

Its too bad Dogville wasn’t instead visited by someone who treated it like the experiment it is, and examined it over time to learn from it. After all, many (inanimate) things have no wills, but neither dogs nor anything else have the will to not have a will…

Or visited by someone who took the more effective offensive tactic of trying to bestow in them a will rather than abusing them for not pursuing one.

I’m not exactly sure what you’re trying to say here, mostly because I don’t know what you mean by “will”.

Look, I think that Dogville at it’s heart isn’t nessesarily anti-American so much as anti-human. It reminds me, oddly, of Fassbinder in that way - in Ali, Fassbinder shows in diagrammatic detail how groups alienate and ostracize outsiders. That’s what Dogville does, albeit in a slightly greater scale. Unlike Fassbinder’s characters, though, Grace gets to pass judgement on the town at the end, which may in itself be an ironic commentary on the American 'might makes right" myth.

All of which is made more complicated by the fact that von Trier loves to stack the deck. He’s a great cinematic trickster - I highly recommend the recent movie The Five Obstructions as an illustration of what a gleeful bastard this guy can be.