Dogme ’95

DOGME 95 is a rescue action!

In 1960 enough was enough! The movie was dead and called for resurrection. The goal was correct but the means were not! The new wave proved to be a ripple that washed ashore and turned to muck.
Slogans of individualism and freedom created works for a while, but no changes. The wave was up for grabs, like the directors themselves. The wave was never stronger than the men behind it. The anti-bourgeois cinema itself became bourgeois, because the foundations upon which its theories were based was the bourgeois perception of art. The auteur concept was bourgeois romanticism from the very start and thereby … false!
To DOGME 95 cinema is not individual!

Today a technological storm is raging, the result of which will be the ultimate democratization of the cinema. For the first time, anyone can make movies. But the more accessible the media becomes, the more important the avant-garde, It is no accident that the phrase “avant-garde” has military connotations. Discipline is the answer … we must put our films into uniform, because the individual film will be decadent by definition!

DOGME 95 counters the individual film by the principle of presenting an indisputable set of rules known as

The Vow of Chastity

“I swear to submit to the following set of rules drawn up and confirmed by DOGME 95:

1. Shooting must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in (if a particular prop is necessary for the story, a location must be chosen where this prop is to be found).

2. The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa. (Music must not be used unless it occurs where the scene is being shot).

3. The camera must be hand-held. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted. (The film must not take place where the camera is standing; shooting must take place where the film takes place).

4. The film must be in color. Special lighting is not acceptable. (If there is too little light for exposure the scene must be cut or a single lamp be attached to the camera).

5. Optical work and filters are forbidden.

6. The film must not contain superficial action. (Murders, weapons, etc. must not occur.)

7. Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden. (That is to say that the film takes place here and now.)

8. Genre movies are not acceptable.

9. The film format must be Academy 35 mm.

10. The director must not be credited.

Furthermore I swear as a director to refrain from personal taste! I am no longer an artist. I swear to refrain from creating a “work”, as I regard the instant as more important than the whole. My supreme goal is to force the truth out of my characters and settings. I swear to do so by all the means available and at the cost of any good taste and any aesthetic considerations.
Thus I make my VOW OF CHASTITY.”

Copenhagen, Monday 13 March 1995
On behalf of DOGME 95

Lars von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg

And here are the dogma films I saw, or at least the ones I remember seeing (inevitably the best and the worst). I will list here only those with a dogma-certificate, in the order that they were issued:

  • Dogme #1: Festen (The Celebration)

I know I shouldn’t say this is Vinterberg’s dogma (rule nr. 10) but I didn’t take the vow of chastity, so…this is, in my opinion, Vinterberg’s only good film. But it really is very, very good, even those who are not Dogma fans agree on this. It’s a family story, but twisted dogma style, with dirty secrets and some very funny singing. As far as I know, it’s also the dogma that follows closest the rules and the manifesto.

  • Dogme #2: Idioterne (The Idiots)

My absolute favorite dogma, the film that for me illustrates dogma perfectly. Denmark is famous for it’s generosity with mentally ill people. That is, when it comes to money and health care. But what about public attitude? A group of anarchist pretending to be mental patients test the limits of tolerance revealing awkwardness, hypocrisy and ambiguity around them, but also within their little group. Their leader’s aim is to “go back to the basics”, that is, to get rid of all restraints, social and psychological, by discovering their inner idiot, the true, honest, naive, simple self. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to interpret this story as an allegory of the Dogma movement itself. But it is a generally disregarded aspect of this film that it is the first of Lars von Trier’s trilogy about female sacrifice, so it is also the story of Karen, a grief-struck mother who is the last to come, and the last to leave the group. She emerges as the only one true and authentic enough to take the social expereiments’ rule seriously, at the price of an extreme sacrifice.

  • Dogme #3: Mifunes sidste sang (Mifune’s Last Song)

The dogma that first showed us that the camera doesn’t have to shake just because it is handheld, the picture doesn’t have to be blurry and fuzzy just because there are no filters used. It was Anders Thomas Jensen’s first real hint at what he will later become, the most original and prolific Danish writer. It also launched beautiful Iben Hjejle’s amazing acting career. It also was light and funny and romantic. It also prooved Søren Kragh-Jacobsen’s talent as a director.

  • Dogme #4: The King is Alive

The first English-speaking Dannish dogma, by Kristian Levring. A tourist bus breaks down in the desert, and the people, with growing desperation, decide to stage their own peformance of King Lear while waiting for…help? death?

  • Dogme #5: Lovers

The first non-Dannish dogma. Unfortunately also the first to warn about what was later to become a trivial fact: dogmas made outside Denmark range from ok to poor, but never reach excellence. Yes, it’s about two lovers, in Paris, imagine that!

  • Dogme #6: Julien Donkey Boy

This is the first dogma to come from the States. I am not even sure what I think about this one. If you ever come across Harmony Korine’s films, you will know why. There is definitely something very true and original about it, but still, it’s almost entirely unwatchable. But it features Chloë Sevigny who confers delicate, yet strong beauty to anything she appears in.

  • Dogme #8: Fuckland

Nevermind, it’s not worth watching.

  • Dogme #12: Italiensk for Begzndere (Italian for Beginners)

This was the first truly blockbuster dogma, the first real dogma comedy, the first real dogma romance. A bunch of lovable, weird characters are looking for a cure for loneliness and end up finding much more than that in the local Italian course. Lone Shefrig’s sensitivity and humour combine perfectly with the dogma rules and incredible perforances from all the actors involved.

  • Dogme #18: Et rightig menneske (Truly Human)

A little girl’s fantasy (aborted) brother comes to life and tries to learn what it means to be a real human being. He is taken for an immigrant, which offers us critical insight into Denmark’s policy regarding newcomers. In the end, the new human fails, presumably for being human, all too human.

  • Dogme #21: En kærlighedshistorie (Kira’s Reason)

Kira comes out from a mental institution, where she spent two years, and desperately tries to be normal in the midst of a loving family. But her grip on reality proves to be too fragile, and the only one able to counter her falling away is the love of her husband, almost mystified. Ole Christian Madsen seems to have more sympathy for the husband than understanding for Kira, and in this respect, the English title is missleading, the original reads A Love Story.

  • Dogme #28: Elsker dig for evigt (Open Hearts)

The perfect love a young couple is torn to pieces by a horrible accident and the subsequent emotional torture. I feel like constantly repeating myself, but the actors here are so truly amazing that this is probably what the original dogma manifesto had in mind when it claimed that a good story brings out the best performances, which make all other gadgets ridiculously in vain. And this is by far the best film that the first lady of Dannish cinema, Susanne Bier made!

  • Dogme #30: Dias de voda

So bad that you would be better off watching a blank wall for an hour or so.

  • Dogme #32: Se til venstre, der er en Svensker (Old, New, Borrowed and Blue)

A half-baked little comedy that suddenly tries to tackle a serious issue and fails, but don’t blame it for this, just smile at it as you would to a child attempting to be an adult.

  • Dogme #34: Forbrydelser (In Your Hands)

Powerful drama about a female prison priest who has to face the possibility that the child she is expecting has Down disease, and a prisoner who has left her own child to die of hunger and thirst while taking drugs. The latter woman can perform miracles, the former tries to keep her faith, but none of them believe in miracles. Annete K. Olsen gives a real female touch to the dogma movement.

  • Dogme #37: Gypo

Pretty lame, only for devoted dogma fans.

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