Lars von Trier's <i>Dogville</i>: A Feel-Bad Film

Nikolaj Lübecker

in The New Extremism in Cinema

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780748641604
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651221 | DOI:
Lars von Trier's Dogville: A Feel-Bad Film

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This chapter focuses on Lars von Trier's Dogville (Denmark, 2003) and argues that the film is really all about the spectator. More precisely, it is a film that seeks to manipulate the spectator and the aim of these manipulations is to bring out ‘the beast’ in us. It is worth noting that von Trier himself has explained that the film borrows a part of its plot from Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weil's song Pirate Jenny from The Threepenny Opera. Claiming that the film's specificity develops from the interplay between what would often be seen as two irreconcilable aesthetic systems, Brechtian and Surrealism, this chapter suggests that the ‘feel-bad’ experience of Dogville and other films of the new extremism are what, however perversely, lead us to ethical reflection. Indeed, it goes so far as to conclude that aggression and manipulation not only save the films from facile moralising, but also allow spectators to engage with the ‘inner bastard’ in a way more intimate than otherwise possible.

Keywords: Lars von Trier; Dogville; feel-bad experience; Bertolt Brecht; Surrealism; spectators; new extremism; aggression; manipulation

Chapter.  5833 words. 

Subjects: Film

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