A Passion for Provocation

Lars von Trier's Dogville is a Christian allegory—with a bite

Danish director Lars von Trier is the reigning bad boy of European cinema, and Dogville, which opens March 26 after tumultuous screenings at the Cannes and New York film festivals, may be his greatest provocation. "I can't decide who I'd like to kill first—the man who made the movie or the people who like it," critic John Simon snarled at me the day after von Trier's three-hour epic had its NYFF press screening.

Yoicks! Against an abstract Great Depression backdrop, sacrificial victim Nicole Kidman is harbored, exploited, abused, and all but crucified by the homespun denizens of a Rocky Mountain town. Is Dogville anti-American (as more than a few Yanks at Cannes seemed to think)? Or is this wildly polarizing movie only misanthropic? Could Dogville be the art-house equivalent of The Passion of the Christ? Cruel stunt or spiritual masterpiece, it's already one of the year's most debated movies—and an early favorite to fight its way to the top of the 2004 Voice critics' poll. Let the baying begin . . .

No Longer Enfant, Still Terrible
European cinema's greatest agitator rethinks sin and virtue through extreme melodrama
By Michael Atkinson

Von Trier with Lars-cam
photo: Lions Gate Films
Von Trier with Lars-cam

Performance Anxiety
Paul Bettany explains the method in his director-tormentor's madness
By Dennis Lim

900 Lights and a 50-Pound Lars-Cam
Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle on creating beauty amid brutality
By Jessica Winter

Plus:
J. Hoberman's review of Dogville

 
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