Dogville [2003]

The latest galvanizing and controversial film from Lars von Trier (Dancer in the Dark, Breaking the Waves, The Kingdom), Dogville uses ingenious theatricality to tell the Depression-era story of Grace (Nicole Kidman, The Others), a beautiful fugitive who stumbles onto a tiny town in the Rocky Mountains. Spurred on by Tom (Paul Bettany, Master and Commander), who fancies himself the town's moral guide, the citizens of Dogville first resist Grace, then embrace her, then resent and torment her--little realizing they will pay a price for their selfish brutality. The town is indicated by fragments of building and chalk outlines on a soundstage floor, stylishly pointing to the movie's roots in classic plays (particularly Thornton Wilder's Our Town and Friedrich Durrenmatt's The Visit). Several critics have stridently attacked Dogville as anti-American, but the movie's dark, compelling view applies as easily to Rwanda, Bosnia, the Middle East, or pretty much anywhere in the world. Also featuring Lauren Bacall, Patricia Clarkson, Jeremy Davies, Stellan Skarsgârd, Chloe Sevigny, and many more. --Bret Fetzer

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