Films & Architecture: "Dogville"

What if a movie is filmed in such a minimal way that your only reference is a plan view drawn on the floor. Then you would need to imagine all the missing information in a kind of mental extrusion of physicality. This is the way chosen by the Danish director Lars von Trier to represent a parable occurring in a fictional settlement in Colorado.

To reinforce this idea of such a surrealistic set, the inicial scene - an aerial approach to the village - was generated through digital models because of the impossibility to get a studio high enough to place the cameras. Enjoy this film and let us know your ideas about this influence of architectural representation into a movie set.


Original title: Dogville
Year: 2003
Runtime: 177 min.
Country: Denmark, Sweden, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Finland, Italy
Director: Lars von Trier
Writer: Lars von Trier
Soundtrack: Antoni Vivaldi
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Harriet Andersson, Lauren Bacall, Jean Marc-Barr, Paul Bettany, Blair Brown, James Caan, Patricia Clarkson, Jeremy Davies, Ben Gazzara, Philip Baker Hall, John Hurt



Dogville is a very small American town by an abandoned silver mine in the Rocky Mountains with a road leading up to it and nowhere else to go but the mountains. The film begins with a prologue in which we meet a dozen or so of the fifteen citizens. They are portrayed as lovable, good people with small flaws which are easy to forgive.

The town is seen from the point of view of Tom Edison Jr., an aspiring writer who procrastinates by trying to get his fellow citizens together for regular meetings on the subject of "moral rearmament." It is clear that Tom wants to succeed his aging father, a physician, as the moral and spiritual leader of the town.

Chapter 1 - In which Tom hears gunfire and meets Grace
It is Tom who first meets Grace Mulligan, who is on the run from gangsters who we are led to believe shot at her. Grace, a beautiful but modest woman, wants to keep running, but Tom assures her that the mountains ahead are too difficult to pass. As they talk, the gangsters approach the town, and Tom quickly hides Grace in the nearby mine. One of the gangsters asks Tom if he has seen the woman, which he denies, and so the gangster offers him a reward and hands him a card with a phone number to call in case Grace shows up. Tom decides to use Grace as an "illustration" in his next meeting—a way for the townspeople to prove that they are indeed committed to community values, can receive a gift, and are willing to help the stranger. They remain skeptical, so Tom proposes that Grace should be given a chance to prove that she is a good person. Grace is accepted for two weeks in which, as Tom explains to her after the meeting, she has to convince the townspeople to like her.

Chapter 2 - In which Grace follows Tom's plan and embarks upon physical laborOn Tom's suggestion, Grace offers to do chores for the citizens—talking to the lonely, blind Jack McCay, helping to run the small shop, looking after the children of Chuck and Vera, and so forth. After some initial reluctance, the people accept her help in doing those chores that "nobody really needs" but which nevertheless make life better, and so she becomes a part of the community.

Chapter 3 - In which Grace indulges in a shady piece of provocation.In tacit agreement, she is expected to continue her chores, which she does gladly, and is even paid small wages in return. Grace begins to make friends, including Jack, who pretends that he is not blind. Grace tricks him into admitting that he is blind, earning his respect. After the two weeks are over, everyone votes that she should be allowed to stay.

Chapter 4 - Happy times in DogvilleThings go smoothly in Dogville until the police arrive to place a "Missing" poster with Grace's picture and name on it on the mission house, the mood darkens slightly. The townspeople are divided as to whether they should or should not cooperate with the police.

Chapter 5 - Fourth of July after allStill, things continue as usual until the 4th of July celebrations. After Tom awkwardly admits his love to Grace and the whole town expresses their agreement that it has become a better place thanks to her, the police arrive again to replace the "Missing" poster with a "Wanted" poster. Grace is now wanted for participation in a bank robbery. Everyone agrees that she must be innocent, since at the time the robbery took place, she was doing chores for the townspeople every day. Nevertheless, Tom argues that because of the increased risk to the town now that they are harboring someone who is wanted as a criminal, Grace should provide a quid pro quo and do more chores for the townspeople within the same time, for less pay. At this point, what was previously a voluntary arrangement takes on a slightly coercive nature as Grace is clearly uncomfortable with the idea. Still, being very amenable and wanting to please Tom, Grace agrees.

Chapter 6 - In which Dogville bares its teethAt this point the situation worsens, as with her additional workload, Grace inevitably makes mistakes, and the people she works for seem to be equally irritated by the new schedule – and take it out on Grace. The situation slowly escalates, with the male citizens making small sexual advances to Grace and the females becoming increasingly abusive. Even the children are perverse: Jason, the perhaps 10-year-old son of Chuck and Vera, asks Grace to spank him, until she finally complies after much provocation. Soon thereafter the police, believing they have found a clue—a cap—linking Grace to the town, discuss this with some of the residents on the street. Chuck walks to his house where Grace is watching his children, and threatening to turn her in if she resists, rapes her. The police leave after being told the cap does not belong to Grace, but it has become obvious that she is hardly able to defend herself against exploitation of the townsfolk.

Chapter 7 - In which Grace finally has had enough of Dogville, conspires to leave town, and again sees the light of day.After Tom proposes his idea to help her escape, Vera blames Grace for spanking her son Jason and for seducing her husband Chuck. In revenge, Vera threatens to destroy the porcelain figurines Grace purchased with her hard-earned wages from the local town shop. Grace begs for mercy and reminds Vera how she taught her children about the philosophy of stoicism. In response, Vera challenges Grace to demonstrate her own stoicism by not showing any emotion as Vera destroys two of the figurines. After Vera destroys them, Grace is unable to hold back her tears and Vera proceeds to destroy all seven of the figurines. With the symbol of her belonging in the town now gone, Grace knows she must escape. She bribes the freight truck driver Ben to smuggle her out of town in his apple truck. En route, Ben climbs into the back of the truck where she is hiding and tells her he must charge her a "surcharge" for harboring a police fugitive—and then extracts the surcharge from her by raping her—after which the truck lumbers only to return Grace to Dogville. The town agrees that they must not let her escape again. The money paid to Ben to help Grace escape had been stolen by Tom from his father—but when Grace is blamed for the theft, Tom refuses to admit he did it because, as he explains, this is the only way he can still protect Grace without people getting suspicious. It is at this point that Grace's humiliating status as a slave is fully confirmed as she is collared and chained to a large heavy iron wheel which she must drag around with her, preventing her from moving anywhere outside of Dogville, and a bell is attached to the collar to announce her presence wherever she goes. The townsmen rape her each night, and the children ring the bell after each visit.

Chapter 8 - In which there is a meeting where the truth is told and Tom leaves (only to return later).This culminates in a late night general assembly in which Grace—following Tom's suggestion—relates calmly all that she has endured from everyone in town. Embarrassed and in complete denial, the townspeople finally decide to get rid of her. When Tom informs Grace to console her, he attempts to have sex with her, having been the only adult male townsperson who has not done so. Grace, however, refuses to have sex with him. Angry partly at Grace's rejection, but even more at himself for his realization that he would eventually stoop to force himself upon her like everyone else in the town, Tom ends up personally calling the mobsters, and later proposes to unanimous approval that she be locked up in her shack.

Chapter 9 - In which Dogville receives the long-awaited visit and the film endsWhen the mobsters finally arrive, they are welcomed cordially by Tom and an impromptu committee of other townspeople. Grace is then freed, and we finally learn who she really is: the daughter of a powerful gang leader who ran away because she could not stand her father's dirty work. Her father confronts her in his Cadillac and tells her that she is arrogant for not holding others to the same high standards to which she holds herself. At first, she refuses to listen, but as she leaves the car and contemplates the discussion she has just had with her father, she looks again upon the town and its people, and is compelled to agree: she would have to condemn them to the worst possible punishment if she held them to the standards to which she held herself, and it would be self-righteous yet hypocritical not to. Her conclusion is confirmed when Tom then speaks to Grace; though he confesses fear as to what the gangsters will do to the town, he expresses no actual remorse or regret about his actions. His suggestion that the two have learned a great deal about human nature from his betrayal of Grace result in her returning to her father's car with the decision that Dogville must be wiped off the face of the Earth.


Previously posted on this section…

About this author
Cite: Daniel Portilla. "Films & Architecture: "Dogville"" 27 May 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

You've started following your first account!

Did you know?

You'll now receive updates based on what you follow! Personalize your stream and start following your favorite authors, offices and users.