Dogville gives you an order, and that order is to talk about it which can’t be avoided. The effect of knowing about its mere existence is that you have to feel and talk about it. Dogville is that cute town in the middle of nowhere, where people are supposed to be simple and good. It is that place where civilization has less effect and therefore it should be beyond the evils of modernity. But William Golding’s Lord of the Flies has already taught us about the danger of the same, but this one has some distant contact with people and therefore that problem is not directly visible.
Dogville is a 2003 movie which has Nicole Kidman as the central character of Grace who runs away from gangsters and is provided asylum in Dogville. They do demand things in return, and even as it begins as some physical labour, things get worse and she is turned into a slave. It is not a bloody violent movie, but is still disturbing in many ways, and it strikes a poisonous arrow right at the heart of the innate goodness which is supposed to exist in all human beings. Once we are poisoned with that arrow, it will grow in us, not like an idea in the mind, but like a stake in the heart. I will share just four areas of that infestation.
1. Inherent evil in man: The innate goodness in man is replaced by the inherent evil which goes back to centuries while leaving a mark on the way as time flies. This evil can spring out of anywhere, whenever the situation is appropriate. As the Overlord (game character) would say, “evil always finds a way”. This tendency to sin which stems from the idea of original sin is something from which humans can never really escape. It is easy for humans to fall into the abyss of temptation, and it has even happened to saints. The same can be said about the townfolks’ treatment of Grace.
2. Contempt for outsiders: Here, Grace was not one of them and therefore an outsider who was to be treated differently. They can’t show that directly, but there is always the fear of the unknown, and it develops into hatred up-to an extent. These people will never be accepted into the group, but are often considered as an appendage who can be thrown out or even abused. The beginning should be from denying some basic human rights. We can see that certain people in some religions and castes do talk in the same way and only caring for their own people. Such people are just another version of these inhabitants of the town.
3. Biblical connection: The name of our heroine Grace, which can be seen as “the grace of God” is rather the person sent to that world to help them as they give refuge to her, as she does prove herself more than just useful in their daily life. But she would be tortured and abused just because she was not one of them, and there were enough reasons created by random thoughts just to mistreat her. In the end, she will be called back, but she will be willing to offer them another chance, but not for long as another Sodom and Gomorrah awaited.
4. Democracy’s limits: The town depends on votes, and this might be the best form of government. But if their supposed leader could choose by himself, wouldn’t it have been better for Grace? Everyone is so much powered by their own selfishness, and instead of thinking for the common good or about the damsel in distress, they choose wrong. The evil people can always outnumber the good and devastate the purpose of democracy. The people who are lesser in number will never get their rights, even if their demands are justified.
Dogville can be your religion, caste, creed or community. It can be your land, and when you mistreat someone in your world for being an outsider, you are only strengthening that presence of inherent evil. It is okay to fear and take precautions as we know the story of “the camel and the arab” and there will some people ready to do the same to us, but that won’t give the right to hate. There are two things I am sure about; I have never loved a performance from Nicole Kidman like this, and there is no movie that has kept me thinking like Dogville. But be warned that this is not a movie for entertainment.