After talking to my friend Trevor Banks – one of the smartest people I know – about Lars Von Trier, I think I sort of understand Dogville and Manderlay a bit more. Trevor was saying that Dogville didn’t upset him on a social-political level because he saw it as complete parable/metaphor. He didn’t accept the comparisons (and neither do I) but looking at the film religiously is really interesting. Trevor makes the case that there are two Christ figures in the film: Grace and her father. Grace represents the side that is willing to forgive everyone and be completely selfless for them all, but she gets totally fucked in the deal. Her father has to step in with a solution, which is anhialation – Apocalypse. Von Trier seems to be coming from the perspective that there really is no hope for humankind, we don’t deserve Grace, and burning is a type of salvation. This doesn’t discredit my ideas about the film, it just adds some interesting levels I think. It might even be some obvious levels, but I was far too caught up in form, I think.
Because Trevor and I were talking about another aspect of Von Trier’s films. Coming from an actor’s perspective, Von Trier really pisses Trevor off (“What the hell is he doing!? That prick!”). I thought his edits were a style choice and that he was cutting together bits of just a few takes, but it turns out he just takes 8 million takes because the actors aren’t doing exactly what he wants them to do. This makes his jump cuts far less cool, because here is this performer giving everything to this extremely difficult and emotional scene, and von Trier steps in every other word and tells them they aren’t good enough.
And Manderlay was an interesting topic of conversation as well. While I saw it solely as a film about race in America and how we react to racism, Trevor was interested in the film from a capitalist perspective. Basically, we are so selfish and unwilling to take control of our own situations and responsibilities, we are unable to function in a capitalist society. We are not ready to step out of our enslaved behaviors…or it could maybe be referring to some kind of a less restricting form of government, like social anarchy, that we are not ready for because we are enslaved by capitalism – the same system that permitted slavery.
I still don’t know at all.