13 September 2005 | Antagonisten
Anti-American or not? This seems to be the most important question for many American viewers when deciding whether to like von Triers trilogy of films about America. Uninteresting as the discussion may be i must still say that i don't think it's anti-American, rather it just shows a very bleak view of humanity in general.
In my opinion Dogville was an amazing film. Even though it was artificial to the core with it's theatrical style i still felt it all the way to the bone. Seldom have i seen such an arty movie that still worked so well. Amazing actors, a story that is brutal and inhuman and an amazing ending. Doing a follow-up to such a movie is not easy, and yet von Trier has promised to make two. Today i saw Manderlay and the question is if it lived up to the expectations given by Dogville.
Right from the beginning Manderlay is at a disadvantage compared to Dogville. The theatrical style with it's stage-like setup and minimum of props has already been done and is not as unique as it was when Dogville was released. Also the lead actress Nicole Kidman is missing, replaced by the (at least to me) quite unknown Bryce Dallas Howard. Also James Caan as her father is replaced by Willem Dafoe. So how did they do? Willem Dafoe is in my opinion one of the most talented actors today in Hollywood and he does excellent here as usual, Bryce Dallas Howard on the other hand is rather pale as a replacement for Kidman. Don't get me wrong, Howard does a decent job of tackling the lead and she fits rather nicely in the movie. However she lacks the width and depth in her acting that Kidman has honed through the years and Howards version of Grace feels more shallow and a lot less haunted.
Otherwise the actors are, like in Dogville, the main attraction. One of von Triers main skills must definitely be bringing out the best in his actors. Everyone performs well despite the demanding format of the movie. The minimalist style demands it's actors to perform well at all times as there is no room for mistakes and nothing to cover them up.
Dogville is in my opinion a better movie than Manderlay. The story is more multi-layered, the actors (especially Kidman) are better and the moral points are presented in a much more powerful way. Yet Manderlay is undoubtedly also a good movie, as well as a good continuation of the story about Grace. If you enjoyed Dogville and accepted the format in which it was presented my guess is that you'll enjoy Manderlay. Part of the point of watching Dogville for me was that it was food for thought and Manderlay also gives you reason to think. So even though this was not as good as Dogville i'm still not disappointed.