Walking into a movie is about the same experience every time, up until you watch the opening scenes of Dogville, the Miami International Film Festival’s true gem. However, although acclaimed at the Cannes Film Festival, the film throws the audience for a loop: there is no actual set to the movie. Staged like a theater performance, a simple black floor with neat white chalk lines and stenciled lettering label each house on the one-street town and the monumental gooseberry bushes and old woman’s bench, although the film is absent of the classic old woman. Aside from the shocking and somewhat unsettling lack of a specific set or scene, a few strategically placed items such as a door or desk remain, desperately trying to fuel the audience’s imagination. However, setting aside Dogville supports an all-star cast, with Nicole Kidman, Paul Bettany, Lauren Bacall, James Caan and Chloe Sevigny.

Lars Von Trier, winner of the best director award at the European Film Awards, tells the tale of sad drama in the depression era, when small towns truly existed and everyone did what they could to survive. Unfolding in nine chapters, a la Quentin Tarantino, Dogville deals with moral issues, complexities of love, hate, and, in the end, pure vengeance. The movies’ three hours drag by like a little girl dragging her dolly, slowly and steadily, never quite rolling into a smooth climb to the climax. Although some of the ghastly and particularly demeaning things that are done to Kidman’s character evoke some emotion, the film stops short, leaving moviegoers half empty inside. Definitely not made to be a box office hit, Dogville is made for those who analyze the cinematography and comment on the director’s film angles while walking out of the theatre. However, even some film buffs can be mentally reached long after they’ve viewed the film, realizing that Dogville isn’t such a peculiar name for the town, thus making the ironic connection between the town’s name and the nature of its people – “dogs.”

The ending is unsettling and shockingly abrupt compared to the rather mundane and almost dreary tone felt throughout the rest of the movie. While Dogville isn’t made for the masses, it appeals to the out-there artists and the film buffs alike. Dogville is playing Saturday, Feb. 7th at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts at 6:30 pm.

Joanna Davila can be contacted at