From the very first frame, the movie Dogville reminds you of a blue print; a conservative mountain town in the 1930s with its inhabitants who control everything in it. Because they are traditional people, they are weary of change, as they are with Grace, played by Nicole Kidman. She stumbled upon the town with such an impact; it affected everyone living there, including herself.            

 Dogville was written and directed by Lars von Trier and is the first installment of his USA-Land of Opportunity Trilogy. The story is broken down into nine chapters and a prologue, each with a direct title, applying to the events forthcoming. What is so unique about the movie is the way it was filmed, on a large sound stage with no constructed sets or buildings. In the character’s homes, they have no walls or barriers-everything big is simply left to the imagination.           

 The film centers on Grace Mulligan (Kidman). A woman on the run from mobsters, she arrives at the town of Dogville unannounced. Tom Edison (Paul Bettany), an aspiring writer and town observer, helps Grace hide by providing her shelter and food. At first you find Grace ignorant of the simple hospitality a small county can offer.  While Tom has to convince the citizens to take her in, they find her work, assisting them in simple tasks they once considered luxuries. Time passes soon enough as everyone takes kindly to the new resident and the glowing sense she brings to them. She has such optimism, fitting in to the community but it becomes more difficult to keep her hidden. With the extra burden comes higher demand: they start to expect more from Grace as their feelings for her become unmasked. What they don’t know about is the troubled past she put behind once arriving at the town and the true danger it could put Dogville in.            

The Film has a solid cast. James Caan plays the big man, a mob boss who is looking for Grace, he has the same avid rage as he had in The Godfather. Phillip Baker Hall plays Tom’s father Tom Edison, Sr., a well respected doctor and frequent neurotic. The blind and compassionate Jack McCay (Ben Gazzara) who is pleased with Grace’s company the most. Chuck (Stellen Skarsgard) and his wife Vera (Patricia Clarkson) with their disquieted son Jason (Miles Purinton). The large supporting cast really pulls their weight in this film, as well as the main stars.

With an avant-garde performance, Kidman’s persona is as pleasing as it is cringing. You can’t decide whether to love or hate her character. Grace is an image of everything that is hopeful and bright, but it only brings out the darkest colors inside each person. The whole spirit of the film is also very dark, but what’s more intriguing is the structure of the film. It has a unique form. Like a play, it omits the useless exterior of the world. It detracts the walls from the citizen’s  homes and rooms. It solely leaves you with the character and their true emotion. Like a novel, it uses chapters and frank language to exemplify what’s happening and narration to keep us on track with the story. Also like a film, it gives us a sense that we belong in this town. Tom and Grace’s problems become our concern and we can’t help but feel for these people.          

  It has such an appealing story and interesting take on American life. Because of his creative structure and mix of techniques, I have great respect for Lars von Trier and the dramatic tone he created. It proves to the viewer that no one can run from their problems, there is always conflict around the mountain.