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! CELLULOID REVOLUTION DOGME 95 AND THE PROCESS OF FILMMAKING BY JOSHUA EDELSTEIN A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Glenn R. Cuomo Sarasota, Florida May, 2013
! "" Table of Contents Table of Contents........................................... ........ ii Abstract...................................................... ............ iii Introduction.. ............................................... ........... 1 Chapter One: The Infl uences of Dogme................ 7 Chapter Two: The Vow of Chastity....................... 18 Chapter Three: Madne ss, Religion, and Law.41 Appendix 1: The Dogme Manifesto ... 87 Works Cited Page........................................... ........ 89
! """ CELLULOID REVOLUTION DOGME 95 AND THE PROCESS OF FILMMAKING Joshua Edelstein New College of Florida, 2013 ABSTRACT This work examines the Danish film movement called Dogme 95 through a dedicated and careful engagement with the written documents that make up the film movement's canon. The most important of these texts is the Dogme 95 Manifesto and the Vow of Chastity wh ichis contained within. The Vow of Chastity is composed of a set of rules which dictated how a Dogme film may be produced. Both the manifesto, and the list of rules contained within are examined and compared to influential film movements and manifestos of the past, to show how the Dogme Manifesto is related to past movements, and how it differs. The rules themselves are analyzed to show how they affect the filmmaking process and how they influence directors to produce films using an entirely different mind set from mainstream cinema production. Direct examples from the films are used, as well as counter examples from more mainstream cinema in order to show their effect. The final section of this thesis examines the relationship between the themes of madness religion, and law, as they appear in the manifesto, two of the most influential Dogme films, and in the director's lives. These concepts are shown to be deeply connected with the goal of Dogme 95, and are largely responsible for its character as a film m ovement. Glenn R. Cuomo Division of Humanities
1 INTRODUCTION Just before the turn of the century, in the 1880s and 90s, a new art form was just starting to make its way into the public consciousness. This art form was a result of emerging technologies which allowed for the capturing of not just an image, but a moving one. This technological revolution allowed for the telling of stories in a manner never before seen. It had the potential to combine the immutability and permanency of a book or painting with the dynamic and visceral experience that a p lay provided. Despite the near unlimited potential that film offered, it would be years before the true potential for this medium would be unlocked. The question had to be asked, "what can be done with this new wonder?" Today, film is no longer a novelty, but rather an integral and inescapable element of life within the United States. Seeing a film went from being a rare and indulgent formal event to something people can do on their laptop in sweatpants in their own home. The process of making a film has a lso become more common, with more and more films getting made, both professional and amateur, every year as the technologies involved in making film becoming progressively smaller and cheaper. This new situation, completely unimagined when the first moving image was captured back in 1888, has led those who think about and discuss film to ask a new question. The question is no longer what can be done, but rather what should be done with film? The original question became obsolete by the middle of the 20th ce ntury, by which time it was discovered that film could be used in an overwhelmingly large number of ways. As the number of ways in which filmmakers were using film to convey their message grew, the great question of film naturally evolved from one of poten tiality to one
2 of selecting. This new question of selecting would become the tool by which nearly all artistic and idealistic movements in film identified themselves. That is, it is by answering the question, what should be done with film, that all movemen ts in film have oriented themselves towards film as a whole. There was the concept of the auteur, which held that the director should be like an author writing a book: completely under control. This concept found a home in the rebellious film culture which developed in France in the 1960s. However, this assertion does not simply hold up for the rebels of film. The Motion Picture Production Code, better known as the Hays Code is a perfect example of a mainstream effort to determine what may and may not be de picted in film. This code, written in 1927 but adopted by the MPPDA(The predecessor to the MPAA) in 1930, listed, in extreme detail, things which were deemed inappropriate for film(Lewis 301). These restrictions barred everything from on screen or otherwis e implied sexual behavior to criminal activity like arson. The Hays code even had an effect on what may be put into the plot of a film, generally decreeing that good must always prevail over evil. The code is a perfect example of mainstream of film being o rganized through restriction. Furthermore, some concepts of what film should be which have rebellious origins find their way eventually to the mainstream, transforming from should be" to shall be". The earlier mentioned auteur concept certainly found qui te a bit of mainstream success, with many an auteur, such as Stanley Kubrick, finding mainstream success. Moving into the 21st century, the number of different ways people have used the moving image has simply grown further. Yet, quite paradoxically, the v ariety of films which make it to theatres is surprisingly homogeneous. Every year you can expect a mix
3 of action, romance, comedy, romantic comedy, horror, "chick flick," and of course the perennial "Oscar bait" film. The sad truth is that film, at least i n the mainstream of society, has become a capitalistic science, with what is shown in your neighborhood multiplex most likely being the result of focus groups and intense research into market demographics. Thus, mainstream film has by and large moved from the category of "fine art" to the category of consumer commodity. So, near the turn of the millennium, a problem had emerged for filmmakers that has forced them to ask the question, what should be done with film, more emphatically than ever before. Arguabl y no one took a stronger stand in answering this question than the founders of the Danish film movement, Dogme 95. The movement appeared to be prophetic, warning that Today a technological storm is raging of which the result is the elevation of cosmetics to God" (Stevenson 22). This dramatic statement gained a new poignancy when, two years after Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg wrote their manifesto, the movie Titanic (1997) came along and smashed not only box office records but also budgetary records, being the most expensive film ever made at its release. The film was both commercially and critically successful, earning 2.18 billion dollars worldwide, as well as being nominated for 14 academy awards, 11 of which it won. Hollywood understood the success of Titanic to be a sign. A film must be bigger, more expensive, and larger than life in order to be a box office success. The film's critical success seemed to suggest that the traditionally stodgier film critics agreed, bigger is indeed better, and more worthy of reward. Today, Titanic does not hold the number one spot for largest budget, being beaten by fifteen films and matched by six. Whether we like it or not, this trend, started by James Cameron with Titanic is here to stay.
4 Dogme 95 presented a diff erent view of the relationship that film could have with technology. Mirroring their earlier statement about technology, the manifesto states that today a technological storm is raging, the result of which will be the ultimate democratization of the cinem a" (Stevenson 22). This statement presents a radically different relationship that film may have with technology than the one exemplified by Titanic Rather than use technology to cosmeticize film on a grand scale, technology could be used to spread the ag ency to create a film to a never before seen public. This prediction also came true, as anybody with access to youtube.com may see. The ability for anybody to capture moving pictures and disseminate them to the public has never been greater. Youtube.com al so shows, however, that this democratization, in and of itself, is not inherently a good thing. Dogme 95, by no means a strictly populist movement, predicts this also when they state, but the more accessible the medium becomes, the more important the ava nt 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!" (Stevenson 22) Dogme 95 did not just stand for the democratization of film, it stood for a complete reimagining of how films were made and thought of! From the little, almost provincial country of Denmark, Lars von Trier and his cohorts took on the mechanized film behemoth of Hollywood. In doing so it, perhaps inadvertently, changed what an independent film could be. Additionally, it had a strong and lasting impact on mainstream cinema, with its influence still being seen and felt to this day. In this thesis, I will take you through the world of Dogme, and show the components which make this interesting and vitally important film movement function. I
5 will start in the first chapter by showing its origins and its precedent by examining both past film movements and film manifestos and examine what it took and what it left behind from these distant relatives. I will do this with a special emphasis on the French New Wave film movement and related thinkers, as this is the only film movement directly discussed in the Dogme 95 manifesto. From Dogme's influence s, it is necessary to discuss the functionality of the manifesto and the set of rules contained within. To this end, the second chapter will focus on the list of Dogme rules, also known as the Vow of Chastity. This chapter will include both a discussion of the creation and presentation of the rules, as well as an analysis of each rule individually. This will frame the rules within their historic place as well as show how each one has a dramatic effect on the movie making process. The final chapter will dis cuss three elements which are present in the documents and personalities that surround Dogme. These elements are madness, religion, and law. These three concepts are highly important to Dogme; and I will show how it is their combination which is the primar y creative force within the Dogme 95 film movement. In this chapter I will also examine, in depth, two Dogme certified films with a special eye for these three elements, showing how they crop up in different ways in different films. This is by no means a complete or comprehensive examination of Dogme, but rather intends to show how radical the Dogme 95 experiment was, what it thought about the modern development of film, and how it intended to rectify the wrongs of this artistic medium. This exploration at tempts to view the writings and actions of those involved with Dogme 95 as independently as possible, viewing it as a complete event that has happened in film history. In doing so, we will hopefully avoid any temptation to apply a
6 critical framework to Dog me 95 which may be inappropriate due to the complex nature of Dogme's inception and existence.
7 The Influences of Dogme Nothing can come from a vacuum. This sentiment is especially true with respect to creative works, which are always informed by the physical and cultural environment they are created in and surrounded by. Despite Dogme's open hostility towards the modern film environment, even they cannot escape influences from the film world. When looking for the ideological influences of Dogme, ther e is no better place to start than the Dogme 95 Manifesto itself. The French New Wave has the dubious honor of being the only film movement to be mentioned in the Dogme 95 Manifesto, which natural places it into a unique relationship with the Dogme movement. However, this mention is no endorsement, but rather reads as sc athing criticism. 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 (Stevenson 21). When attempting to decode t his intense and flowery rhetoric, two guiding questions should be kept in mind: what was this "correct goal" of the New Wave movement, and how does Dogme view its actions as more in line with this goal? Neither is an easy question, yet it is clear where th is inquiry must start. We must first ascertain what the goal was. Clues are ripe in the manifesto's text, yet answers are not as easy to come by. From the direct text there is to work with, it is easier to understand what the Dogme film is not supposed to be, this will be a fine starting point for this exploration. The second sentence of the manifesto states that "Dogme has the expressed goal of countering "certain tendencies" in the cinema today"(Stevenson 21). What is probably meant by this phrase, "certa in tendencies," is the formalizing effect that
8 the commercialization of cinema, which was just starting to reach new heights in the 50s and 60s in America. There are a number of other textual clues within this document to support this interpretation of thi s vital phrase. The strongest support for this interpretation comes from the multiple references to the bourgeois, cast in a negative light. The bourgeois consumption of film, according to the manifesto, has led us to an individual known as the "decadent" filmmaker. This filmmaker is not an artist, but rather a glorified circus performer. The supreme task of the decadent filmmaker is to fool the audience. Is that what we are so proud of? Is that what the 100' years' have brought us? Illusions via which emo tions can be communicated? (Stevenson 22) In this analysis, the historical progression of film has shown its directors to have traded in its true potential (another category which is obscured at the moment) for a role as a highly elaborate parlor trick. I f this is indeed an accurate analysis of Dogme's assessment of the state of film, then it follows that it is the individual filmmaker who is responsible for perpetuating this type of film. According to the manifesto, "The auteur concept was bourgeois roman ticism from the very start and thereby...false!!!"(Stevenson 22). Here we see that it is not only the films themselves that are illusory to Dogme, but the very film process itself, as it is commonly performed, is also an illusion! To be more accurate, the process perpetuates an illusion about itself. This illusion is the concept of an individual force bringing a movie into existence via a singular force of will. This is indeed the crux of much of the manifesto -that it is not the individual which br ings about film. The individual may only bring about an illusion, which, according to Dogme, is at best a mere mockery of film. What's more, it is not simply a
9 fanciful illusion which these "auteurs" bring about, but rather an illusion predictably designed to evoke an emotional response. On this predictable illusion, von Trier states, Predictability (dramaturgy) has become the golden calf around which we dance. Having the characters' inner lives justify the plot is too complicated, and not "high art". As ne ver before, the superficial action and the superficial movie are receiving all the praise (Stevenson 22). So, in light of these things which Dogme denies, we have still not come to a point where we may definitively state what Dogme intended for it s response to be. However, this search may be benefitted by first taking what has been observed thus far, and applying it to the New Wave movement. This is because, as was stated initially, the French New Wave is seen as a "near miss" of sorts, with noble goals that fell short due to inherent flaws within the movement. By comparing the New Wave to Dogme, we can see the overlap in both purpose and execution, and potentially more valuable, the differences that set Dogme apart. There are four main features th at may be mapped against the French New Wave; its relationship to film as an illusion, its relationship to commercial film (bourgeois film), its relationship to the "auteur" concept, and the organization of the movement. All these disparate, yet intrinsic ally connected concepts may be related back to a single central concept -that of the manifesto. In examining the French New Wave's relationship to this concept we find that its relationship to Dogme becomes clear. Just like Dogme 95, the French New Wave ha d intellectuals associated with it who were drawn to the manifesto form. Of these manifestos, arguably the most important is Astruc's The Birth of a New Avant Garde (1948), which was written decades before the first "proper" New Wave film was produced. Thi s document contains many of the same gripes with the state of film which may be found in The Dogme Manifesto
10 However, the earlier document is certainly much more "serious" than The Dogme Manifesto and details its gripes with contemporary cinema in a far m ore academic manner (some might argue more precisely). The main element that both these documents had in common was the conceptualization of film up to their respective points in history as nothing more than an economically driven commercial venture, coupl ed with the confidence that emerging technologies will solve this issue by spreading film in a more egalitarian manner. From Astruc's manifesto, he states: It must be understood that up to now the cinema has been nothing more than a show. This is due to th e basic fact that all films are projected in an auditorium. But with the development of I6mm and television, the day is not far off when everyone will possess a projector, will go to the local bookstore and hire films written on any subject, of any form, f rom literary criticism and novels to mathematics, history, and general science (Astruc 2). Notice the similarity in sentiment between this statement and the following one from The Dogme Manifesto "Today a technological storm is raging, the result of whi ch will be the ultimate democratization of the cinema. For the first time anyone can make movies."(Stevenson 22) When this statement is coupled with Dogme's concept of the contemporary movie being a mere manipulation of emotions, it becomes very difficult to find any difference, aside from the exact details about which technologies will be have the democratizing effect, between Von Trier's ideas and those of his predecessor of almost fifty years. However, The Dogme movement acknowledges the potential, and indeed, the actualization, of technology's ability to have the opposite effect on cinema. Near the end of The Dogme Manifesto von Trier and Vinterberg sum up this technological effect in a style mirroring their earlier statement about technology. "Today a technological storm is raging of which the result is the elevation of cosmetics to God. By using new technology
11 anyone at any time can wash the last grains of truth away in the deadly embrace of sensation. The illusions are everything the movie can hide b ehind" (Stevenson 22). The acknowledgement that technology is a double edged sword in the pursuit of a "pure" film is conspicuously missing from Astruc's document. It is highly likely that this realization stems from the experience of the failure of the sp read of more available home viewing technologies to have the proper transforming effect on the medium of film. Indeed, Astruc's prediction that the spread of these home viewing technologies would lead to a diversity of film unheard of prior, rivaling or eq ualing the diversity of books came true. However, the commercialization of film was not diminished by this spread. These new technologies did indeed impact the commercial aspect of film, but rather increased this aspect of film. While the diversity of film increased exponentially, the intent of most film productions was still the same: to create a marketable product, tangentially related to the concept of "art" at best. However, to say that Astruc's manifesto is proven false due to this one point would be i ncorrect. In fact, the discussion of technology, and its future effect on film, is merely one element of this manifesto; an element which leads into the more primary, influential, concept contained within it. This concept is the auteur, which is French for author. This idea is coupled with the complementary idea of a cameraStylo or "cameraPen". In describing the necessity for the future of film on these coupled concepts, Astruc states: that the scriptwriter ceases to exist, for in this kind of film making the distinction between author and director loses all meaning. Direction is no longer a means of illustrating or presenting a scene, but a true act of writing. The film maker/author writes with his camera as a writer writes with his pen (Astruc 3). Essent ially, this is a call for a radical individualism to emerge in the creative process of film. This is the basic premise of these integrated concepts. The concept of
12 auteur essentializes the directorial process as being fundamentally the same as the process of creating a book. This is a huge leap over such film giants as Vertov, who saw film as something utterly unique from past art forms. While the concept of the auteur is not fully elaborated in this manifesto (a work to be accomplished by one of the New Waves founding figures, Francois Truffaut), the concept of cameraStylo was highly influential in justifying the idiosyncratic styles of the French New Wave. This ph ilosophy of the individual as director indeed led to unusual and highly creative, sometimes revolutionary, techniques in film. A perfect example of this can be found in the 1960 New Wave film, Breathless (1960), by Jean Luc Goddard. This film uses an edit ing technique, known as the "jump cut" that was commonly believed to be "bad form" before this film showed its expressive potential. This type of cut shows the same action from two or more different angles in rapid succession, potentially leaving the audie nce confused as to what exactly is occurring. The effect on the movie is astounding, and is often lauded as one of its most powerful features. The jump cuts create a sort of surreal world, where the murder of a police officer appears to be enjoyably excit ing and nearly comical, removing the action's inherent intensity. This is a perfect example of what might be considered a success of the auteur concept. It took what was considered a commercially viable technique and turned it into a powerful tool for expr ession in the creation of a new world. What's more, it revealed the "inner workings" of the film, bringing the editor to the forefront of the audience's minds. This goes against the common film notion that the editing process should be as transparent as po ssible, allowing as much as can be for the audience to forget they are watching a movie. This backlash against the concept of film as an
13 emulation of reality is certainly in line with the rhetoric of The Dogme Manifesto and The Vow' of Chastity which try as much as possible to destroy the film as an illusion. A movie which takes this concept of revealing the film to an outer limit is the later New Wave work, La Jete (1962), which is mostly made up of still frame shots, drawing a clear line between film an d reality. This film's director, Chris Marker, truly embraces Astruc's CameraStylo concept, using the concept of cinema in a deeply personal manner. The outcome is a unique movie of which few comparisons are possible. From the perspective of Astruc, this m ovie truly represents the next stage of cinema, in which convention is discarded for unbridled creativity with image and sound to create what may only be described as a work of art. However, despite the artistic success this and other New Wave movies achieved, the movement was not uniform, and very often movies whose directors either identified with, or were otherwise influenced by the New Wave movement had more in common with commerc ial cinema and less in common with truly artistic films such as La Jete While the concept of the auteur is acknowledged in The Dogme Manifesto as being somewhat fruitful, it is also seen as a dead end. With the careful admittance that "Slogans of individ ualism and freedom created works for a while, but no changes" (Stevenson 22). Lars von Trier both compliments and dismisses the French New Wave's championing of the Auteur concept. The criticism of the auteur concept runs deep into the heart of what the Do gme film movement means. From one perspective, it may even be argued that the entirety of Dogme is a backlash against the Auteur concept. Such a perspective is backed up by assertions that "the Wave was up for grabs, like the directors themselves. The Wave was never stronger than the men behind it" (Stevenson 21). In other words,
14 because of The Wave's emphasis on individual effort, the force of its philosophy was decentralized and weak. Despite its intentions to support "artistic" film, this intention had v ery little organized support. From this weak position, it was simple for more "mainstream" individuals to come into the movement and highjack its original intention. Essentially the movement was too decentralized to support itself so that the so called Wa ve' "proved to be a ripple that washed ashore and turned to muck". When comparing and contrasting the two, it is important to note that, unlike Dogme 95, The French New Wave never sought to be a unified front. Rather, it was a loose connection of filmmaker s sharing similar influences and creating films that defied the norm of filmmaking at the time. Thus, it is erroneous to say that the movement was "betrayed" or "sold out" or the like. There was nothing to betray or sell out. While from the hindsight persp ective of Dogme this may appear to be a weakness, it would have been next to impossible for the directors of that time to view their unique filmmaking approach as anything related to a movement. It is apparent from what has been seen thus far, that the lac k of a discernible "nucleus" to The French New Wave movement, that Dogme spares no chance to critically pick the movement apart. The question must be posed then: what is the value that Dogme adherents see in this critical exercise in creating their own mov ement? This question must have something to do with the intent of the movement as a whole. The Dogme Manifesto traces the history of the New Wave movement (in a short and often overly dramatic manner), and eventually comes to this ultimate and damning conc lusion about The New Wave: The anti bourgeois cinema itself became bourgeois, because the foundations upon which its theories were based was the bourgeois perception of art. The auteur
15 concept was bourgeois romanticism from the very start and thereby...fal se! (Stevenson 21) If this final conclusion appears unfairly harsh on a movement that was indeed not truly a movement. It must be remembered how this analysis of the New Wave started out. Namely that it "created works for a while". If one is to extract fr om this terse statement that the word works' is one which ultimately has a positive connotation, then it becomes clear why Dogme so harshly criticizes The New Wave. It is a movement that started out with the potential to recreate cinema, yet this potentia l was wasted, or proven to have been impotent. For the founders of Dogme 95, and especially the writers of The Dogme Manifesto this failure of maximizing this potential may be traced back to the fact that the movement was one of individuals, without a sym bolic and organizing body. This is both obvious in their writings, with the end of their criticism of the new wave ending in the one sentence paragraph: "To Dogme 95 cinema is not individual!" When one understands that this is the primary sticking point th at Dogme has with The New Wave, The Dogme Manifesto as well as the rules in The Vows of Chastity begin to make sense. However, it is highly interesting to note that the founder and main force of the Dogme 95 film movement, as well as the writer of The Do gme Manifesto Lars von Trier, is himself precisely the kind of director which Dogme was created to confound. In regards to the first film he made after he graduated from Danish Film School, von Trier states that "I am convinced that rarely has so much bas ic research been done before shooting of a Danish film," and also "we knew every single camera position before we began" (Stevenson 53). This attention to detail and careful preparation is certainly characteristic of the directors' personality. These trait s characterize his first two post film
16 school movies, The Element of Crime (1984) and Europa (1991); movies which not only break the rules of Dogme, but fundamentally go against what the movement would come to stand for. It must be asked, was von Trier sim ply using The French New Wave as an easy scapegoat for a critique that has more to do with his own style? Is Dogme a method of removing Von Trier from the filmmaking process? Whether Dogme is meant to remove the individuality engendered by The New Wave, or the perfectionist individual of von Trier from the filmmaking process, it is still primarily concerned with removing individual power from filmmaking. When viewed from this angle, the purpose of the rules of Dogme becomes readily apparent. Indeed, the rul es are not artistic conceits, or aesthetic choices (at least in the traditional sense), but rather obstacles which make it impossible for a single individual to have full control over the creation of a film. Some of the rules contained in The Vow of Chasti ty are clearly for this purpose, such as rule 10, which states that "The director must not be credited." It is interesting to note that despite rule 10, the director of every single Dogme film is known. It must be interpreted then, that the spirit of this rule is not interested in the creation of anonymity for the director, but rather a removal of the director from the limelight often afforded to be by traditional film. In this sense the rule is a symbol more than a practical instruction to be followed. Bes ides this obvious removal of the director from a superior position symbolically, there are many practical elements within The Vow of Chastity which limit the powers of any director, and certainly make the task of any aspiring auteur nearly impossible. Whi le all the rules may be correctly interpreted as a constraint on the director, clearly marked by the word "Chastity," the first three rules particularly limit the director. These three
17 limitations, rule one (shooting must be done on location. Props and set s must not be brought in), rule two (sound must never be produced apart from the images, or vise versa), and rule three (The camera must be hand held.), Make it nearly impossible to meticulously construct a mise en scne The destruction of a carefully con trolled mise en scne is at the same time partial removal of the illusion which Dogme desires to remove from their movies. This reveals an important fact about Dogme belief: the control of an individual is the illusion which film suffers from. Dogme seeks to free film from the monarchical structure of an all powerful director, and instead focus on the process of capturing events onto a camera in a spontaneous manner.
18 The Vow of Chastity It would not be an understatement to say that without the V ow of Chastity, and the rules that it contains, Dogme 95 would be a hollow shell. Without these rules, the task which Von Trier sets for his fellow filmmakers, that "we must put our films into uniform, because the individual film will be decadent by defini tion" (Stevenson 22) would not be accomplished within the manifesto. Indeed, the rules are the uniform. It is no surprise that the rules attract nearly all of the attention the Dogme 95 movement receives; almost more than the movies themselves. Despite thi s clear connection between the Vow of Chastity and the idea of putting film into uniform, a number of questions about the rules still remain. For instance, why these particular rules? And perhaps more pressing, why make the idea of uniform, and thus the id ea of the rules, so central to the movement? When one considers the Dogme 95 manifesto as a whole, it is easy to get a sense of a political revolution, rather than a simple film movement. Indeed, the act of writing a manifesto is itself is a revolutionary minded act, if it is accepted that the intention of a manifesto is a call or declaration to action against a prevailing trend. This understanding of a manifesto can be easily exhibited by the fact that rarely is a manifesto written which supports the statu s quo. However, most manifestos, like political revolutions, do not contain a set of rules to guide them. The inclusion of these rules sets Dogme apart from most film manifestos, which will often request certain behavior, but never codify these requests in as itinerated a manner as a list of rules. The inclusion of the Vow of Chastity into the Dogme manifesto gives it a decidedly more authoritarian flavor; especially when considered in conjunction with the above mentioned call to uniformity'. The question that must follow is why these
19 authoritarian elements are necessary to a film movement? Much of this may stem back to the fact that this manifesto is as much a personal affair for Lars von Trier as it is intended to be a national and international film move ment. It is ironic that the authority tinged Dogme Manifesto may have indeed been considered a cure for von Trier's own implacable authoritarianism. Peter Schepelern states that As a control freak who had gone all the way with Europa von Trier now had no other option than to test the possibilities in deliberately abstaining from control, that is, systematically to prevent himself from doing what he most wanted to do (Schepelern 64). This illustrates the problem that von Trier faced at the start of th e 90s. He was an infamous perfectionist, the very picture of an auteur, yet he felt that his creativity was stifled by his overbearing, controlling nature. This is perfectly illustrated by a direct quote, in which von Trier states that my greatest problem in life is control versus chaos. I can get extremely afraid of not having control when I want it. The best situation I can imagine would be to accept the lack of control (Schepelern 64). From this perspective, one may develop a hypothesis for why the r ules are such a necessary component of Dogme 95. This theory is that the Vow of Chastity represents the control freak's answer to a lack of creative spontaneity. In other words, by carefully crafting an environment in which spontaneity is all but inevitabl e, von Trier set his controlling nature against itself, allowing a certain degree of chaos to seep into his work. There is evidence for his experimentation with this concept during the work on his television series The Kingdom where he began to experiment with the freedom (and chaos) that handheld cameras afforded him.
20 However, it would be ignoring the greater picture in favor of a clean explanation to state that the Dogme film movement is nothing more than a personal flight of Lars von Trier. While this e lement of the movement cannot be ignored, and is vital for an understanding of what drove this film movement, it does not fully answer all the questions about the rules and their place within the Dogme Manifesto. For instance, it is hard to think of a reas on why von Trier would be so public (and dramatic) about revealing these rules if they were intended to be just for him. In addition, if the rules were intended only, or at least mainly, for von Trier, it is difficult to account for the fact that he allowe d the first Dogme certified film to be Vinterberg's The Celebration (1998) rather than a film of his own construction. This fact does not fall in line with the picture of Dogme 95 as a personal vanity project of von Trier, the control freak. The whole proc ess of certification sheds even more doubt on the model of Dogme 95 qua von Trier. For someone to truly grasp the weight that this process has on this discussion, it must be briefly explained. In order to be officially considered a Dogme film, an aspiring Dogme director must submit their film to the first four Dogme 95 filmmakers, who review the film that then, if it meets their standards (in terms of obeying the Vow of Chastity), these four filmmakers sign a certificate stating that the film is in accordan ce with the rules. This certificate is usually shown before the start of a Dogme film. Why go out of the way to create a certification process for films that abide by a set of rules you place for yourself? What's more, even if you were to put this system i n place, why co sign it with three other people? This line of reasoning highlights one of Dogme's main tensions: namely, a personal motivation with very public execution. This seeming paradox in fact reveals a
21 great deal about the intentions of the rules o f Dogme 95 and their necessity. The rules are an extremely public guideline which each film must follow as close as possible to the letter. The result is that anyone who has read the Vow of Chastity has some understanding of the environment in which the fi lm was created. A reader of the rules understands the limits enforced upon the director. Indeed, it is difficult to read the rules without imagining oneself in the position of director, working through the difficulties and boons that they provide. In this imaginative process, Dogme lays bare the arcane mechanics behind filmmaking, opening up this rarified field to filmmaker as well as audience. This inclusion of the audience into the filmmaking process has a twofold effect. In one sense, it demystifies the creation of film for the audience. The filmmaker goes from some godlike heroic figure (think Stanley Kubrick), to someone grappling with very real rules which anybody with a camera could follow. The viewer can analyze each scene as a compromise between the artist's vision and the inescapable realities that the rules confront them with. Indeed, this idea of humbling the filmmaker, or bringing them down to a "human" level, can be seen in the concept of the confession, a document produced after the filming of a potential Dogme film. This confession acknowledges any breaks from the Dogme rules which may have taken place and explains the circumstance behind the filmmaker's decision to break the rule. This level of accountability reflects with the idea that the Do gme rules enable a transparency between viewer and the filmmaking process. On the other hand, the creation of a film is lifted up to new heights unheard of before. It is easy for someone watching a Dogme film to say, "How were they able to
22 create something so captivating and even...cinematic! While obeying these burdensome rules?" Viewers may imagine their own position facing these rules, and (more likely than not) simply marvel passively at what was able to be created out of, or in spite of, these rules. This twofold understanding of a Dogme film allows for both understanding and appreciation. Dogme opens up an unprecedented dialogue with the appreciators of film that fundamentally changes the relationship the viewer has to the filmmaker. When comparing Do gme to someone like Stanley Kubrick, or even the Titanic' James Cameron, we can understand the difference in relationship. An auteur like Kubrick or Cameron presents a film to the audience with the implicit understanding that everything is as it should be The film is their great work for the audience to simply admire, amazed at their incredible artistic vision. A Dogme film by von Trier or Korine, however, has a completely different relationship to the viewer. Ideally, their name would not even be attache d to the film. They do not approach the viewer as a towering artistic image but rather as a humble creator whose vision must be tempered by the capricious nature of reality. Watching a Dogme film encourages the asking of questions about this negotiation pr ocess, thus actively engaging the audience in the film. The Dogme rules' austere presentation and simple wording masks their true complexity. The implications of each individual rule are massive, even if one were to ignore the interactions that they have with each other. To fully understand the impact that these rules have on the creation of the Dogme films, as well as their impact on the action of watching the films, it is necessary to perform a close reading and analysis of each individual rule. If it i s true that the rules are the heart of Dogme 95, this process goes a
23 long way towards understanding the movement on ontological, teleological, and aesthetic levels. Without further comment: the rules. 1. Shooting must be done on location. Props and sets mu st not be brought in (if a particular prop is necessary for the story, a location must be chosen where the prop is to be found). This first rule immediately establishes the Vow of Chastity as creating a filming environment that prevents the director from establishing a mise en scne cutting immediately into the power of the auteur concept. As far back as film history goes, the moti on picture camera has been used to create fantastical landscapes and facades of the imagination. This idea in cinema, of creating a facade of a new reality, is so prolific that even scenes that do not seem to bear the mark of artificial craft, such as an i nterior shot of a middle class family home, are more often than not simply studio sets, unfit for anything but the telling of a story through the camera. This first rule of Dogme radically departs from this notion of film as something that "creates" a new world. This rule rather grounds film into the living world. While some of the stories told in this format are indeed strange, such as The Idiots (1998), or Julien Donkey Boy (1999) they take place in an altogether familiar and unmistakably real world. Wh at's more, the second half of this rule, which forbids the importing of objects to the site, forces the filmmaker to be all the more at the mercy of the present situation. If the first half of rule #1 made the auteur's mission difficult, this section of th e rule makes the creation of an auteur, by definition a director with total control over the creation of their film, impossible. This is because at least partially, the objects available are not always up to the filmmaker, but are often at the mercy of the location. Some may say that
24 this "naturalizes" film, or that it makes film less "illusory." However, it seems wrong to use either of these terms without first establishing what is meant by these terms. It is interesting to note that by using some definit ions of these words, all films, including Dogme 95 films, become unnatural and illusory. In the literal sense for instance, all films are made up of still images which are arranged and displayed in such a manner that they appear to move as in everyday life This is both unnatural and illusory. This is indeed an extreme stance on the matter. A more reasonable assessment of film is that it is an image that has a relationship of representation to reality. Now, if this is an accurate representation, it may be s aid to be natural or non illusory. However, if this image, which is understood to be a representation of reality, depicts something that is not related to reality, such as is the case with the use of special effects or superficial action (such as murder), the film may be said to be illusory or unnatural. From this it is easy to see why the first rule fosters a sort of "realness" in film. However, in practice this assertion of superior "realness" becomes blurred. This is proven practically by films like Juli en Donkey Boy and The King is Alive (2000). In Julien Donkey Boy, a film which obeys nearly all of the Dogme rules to the letter, with each disobedience being both minor and admitted in the confession, the question of reality is complicated by the fact tha t the main character, Julien, is schizophrenic, and we as viewer are often let into his strange world. This leads to some scenes of the movie where the realness of those scenes is either implicitly or explicitly questioned, despite their adherence to the V ow of Chastity.
25 Even in a relatively "sane" film, like The King is Alive the "realness" of the situation presented on film is tenuous at best. This film, by Kristian Levring, tells the tale of a group of tourists who become stranded in the Namibian desert after their driver gets lost on the way to their destination. The stranded group of Europeans, plus their local driver, who are constantly being watched over by a voyeuristic hermit, decide that to pass the time until they are rescued they will put on a p roduction of King Lear. The unlikeliness of this scenario is glaringly obvious. Indeed the entire movie reads with the larger than life theatricality of the Shakespeare play they are attempting to perform. This is exemplified by the fact that the entire pr emise of the film, that these forlorn tourists reenact King Lear, relies on someone rewriting all of the play King Lear from memory using limited materials. Not only this, but he does so multiple times, for each actor! This shows perfectly that just becaus e a film is more grounded in the physical world, does not necessarily mean that it possesses a high degree of "realness" or a low degree of illusion. This also shows that the rule's purpose cannot be to imbue reality or extract illusion since at least two Dogme films, one of which is one of the original four Dogme films, obey this rule while maintaining a detachment from reality and a relationship with illusion. Rather we must return to the initial assessment of this rule. Namely, that it forces any prospec tive auteurs to grapple with the forces of nature and caprice, making the construction of a new world a nearly impossible task.
26 2. The sound must never be produced apart from the images, or vice versa. (Music must not be used unless it occurs where the s cene is being shot.) While this rule may contemporarily be seen as a simplifying one (i.e. a rule which simplifies the filmmaking process), this was not historically the case. The equipment required to capture sound at the same time as the capturing of an image was expensive and cumbersome. In the past, it was often low budget films that used overdubbing to save money [most notoriously in the case of spaghetti westerns] (Ebert 1). However, the trend of creating sound apart from image (and vice versa) has go ne mainstream in modern cinema and the gap has widened between source and sound or image. Sound engineering is often utilized to create special effects noises as simple as horses galloping to as complex as a giant starship exploding. One merely has to look at the soundscape of Star Trek to see that this separation is ubiquitous and in some ways, alienating. Aside from the predictable elements which would require sound engineering, like ship engines and phaser fire, entirely mundane elements, like the openin g of a door are not what they seem. The trademark swooshing sound the doors make in the Star Trek series is in actuality, a Russian toilet being flushed (Hart 1). Of course, rule #2 would expressly prohibit such sound engineering. Indeed, the soundscape of a Dogme 95 film is squarely locked in the arena of sounds that occur in the "here and now". Because of this, an interesting dynamic forms between the filmmaker and the audience. Namely, the sound heard while the film was being shot is exactly the sound th at will be heard when the audience watches the movie, aurally connecting the audience to the making of the film. This realization is one of the moments that grounds the audience in a thoroughly demystified version of film.
27 Additionally this rule leads to a shift in the way that sound may be considered in film. In a standard film, sound is a result of careful creation and consideration. In this sense, a standard film's sound is engineered.' In a Dogme movie, sound is not carefully crafted or engineered but rather captured.' The difference may be comparable to seeing an animal in a natural habitat at a zoo versus seeing that same animal in the wild. This comparison sheds some light onto another interesting feature of sound in Dogme movies versus traditional movies. Namely, that the sound in a traditional movie "belongs" to the filmmaker in the sense that it is wholly their product (in the same sense that the animal in the zoo "belongs" to the public). This concept of ownership is not present in the Dogme soun dscape. The sound is wholly wild, not belonging to any person's artistic vision. This is perfectly shown in a film like The Celebration, which bears almost no consciously considered sound elements. The only music in this film comes from the actors themselv es, usually singing in unison. This lack of prerecorded sound accentuates this rule, and shows just how much can happen with so little. More shocking than this, however, is the prohibition of non diegetic music, which has been a staple of film, since its inception. It is so common in film that it is even common for filmmakers to take advantage of the assumption by the audience that most music is non diegetic. Filmmakers use this assumption to trick the audience into believing that music is non diegetic, on ly to have a character break this notion by switching off a radio or having a record scratch. This sort of playing with expectations would not be possible in a dogme film, seeing as all sound must originate from the images.
28 This rule proves more difficult to follow than it would seem, and appears to be one of the most commonly broken or "bent" rules. For instance, in Harmony's Korine's Confession for Julien Donkey Boy Korine uses audio equipment he found in his grandmother's house (the location of the scen e) to create a soundtrack for certain scenes, involving overdubs by Werner Herzog (Korine Confession 1). In some cases this seems to be a definite example of this rule being broken. However, the music was indeed occurring, "where the scene was shot", it j ust happened to be occurring just out of sight of the camera. With this interpretation, this could be seen more as a rules "bend" than a full on break. This begins to approach a question that Dogme rules demand to be answered. What is most important: the l etter of the rules or the spirit in which the rules were created? This question becomes doubly difficult for Dogme 95 when one considers the fact that the movement was hastily created and constantly appears to be half in jest. 3. The Camera must be hand h eld. Any movement or mobility 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.) This is arguably the most important rule for the creation of the Dogme aes thetic. This is because this rule, as much if not more than all the others, has a profound effect on the visual style of the Dogme movies. This is mainly because it rules out any sort of heavy camera equipment. Everything must be small enough to be carried around with two hands. It also prohibits the creation of highly choreographed shots, enabled by a steady cam or a camera held stationary by any other means. This is once again an attack on the
29 concept of an omnipotent auteur. The potential auteur is simpl y deprived of the tools that would allow him or her to establish highly planned and stable shots. The idea of holding a high quality camera in hand for filming is an idea that has only just now become possible due to advances in technology. Because of thi s lack of technology for such a long time, much of the filmmaking world takes for granted that a movie's most basic shot is a steady, supported one. Even when cameras were made small enough to be used without supports, devices, such as the steadi cam, were invented in order to isolate the camera from the operator's body, thus rendering a smooth shot. Thus, the idea that, not only a film's basic shot, but its only shot should be a non stable one, is entirely foreign to the mainstream of filmmaking. Not only does it deconstruct the standard aesthetic of the modern film, it replaces it with a new one. Very often, the first thing one notices about a Dogme film is the shaky, grainy quality of the image. Both of these things stem directly from this rule: the shak iness created by the handheld requirement, and the graininess created by the limitation on equipment this handheld requirement necessitates. While these two qualities may be initially the most shocking and surprising, they are hardly the most interesting o utcomes of this requirement. Because the camera is handheld, the camera is logically and naturally free from any stationary position. What this often results in is a highly dynamic camera, that constantly moves to reflect the action that is occurring in th e film. The cameraman is often very close to the actors, and moves with them, creating a very fluid feel to much of the camera work in Dogme films. This fluid feel is at least partially engendered by the fact that scenes in Dogme films are often improvise d, and the cinematographer may have little idea what direction
30 the actors will take the scene. This requires them to be very close to the action. While this may seem to be a natural thing (and it may be just that) it is indicative of a dramatic shift in th e ideology behind how one should use a camera to make a film. This fluidness can be particularly felt in von Trier's The Idiots, where, indeed, most of the dialogue and action is improvised. The camera work is so frantic at parts that the boom mic slips into a few of the shots. In a normal film, this would be seen as sloppy, but in a Dogme film, it may be seen as indicative of how engaged and active the entire crew is in the filming of the movies. They must constantly be on their toes, moving with the act ion, and anticipating the movements of one another. In this manner, it can be seen that the crew of a Dogme film is intimately connected in a manner not usually seen in a film. Because of the spontaneity of their actions, the crew of the film, and the came raperson especially, can be viscerally experienced as present in the final product, as much a character as a person who was actually seen on film. This new relationship of the cameraperson to the film requires a fundamental departure in the way that filmin g is thought about. Most traditional films look at using the camera as attempting to "capture" something, but they are not actually doing much capturing.' The director envisions a scene, then the various crew members of the film work to create an environm ent where this vision may exist. Then, the camera is used to isolate this vision and make it a reality. It is a process less akin to capturing and more closely related to crafting or cultivating. This is not how a Dogme film operates. The second half of ru le three states that the "film must not take place where the camera is standing; shooting must take place where the film takes place." With this statement, the concept of the camera as the locus of the film
31 is reversed, and instead the camera becomes a too l with which one may truly capture the film which is taking place. The importance of this difference cannot be understated. It cannot be understated because it is precisely this difference that begins to get to the heart of the difference in mindset that d evelops when one agrees to follow the rules of Dogme 95. 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 may be attached to the camera.) With the possibl e exception of rule #2, this rule has proven to be one of the most difficult for aspiring Dogme directors to fulfill, with even the father, von Trier, admitting to tampering with the lighting in The Idiots However, it is not the difficult to follow the se cond half of this rule which is the most intriguing, but rather the mundane first part of this rule, stating simply that "the film must be in color". This is one of the many rules of Dogma which define the movement as a clearly modern movement, with no int erest in traditional film revivalism or any anachronistic sentiment. Rather, this rule establishes that Dogma is interested in establishing a film movement which minimizes the film production process. Choosing to force all Dogma films to be in color moves against many of Lars von Trier's past film efforts, such as Europa which he shot in black and white. This clearly shows that the prohibition of color is less a personal choice and more a conscious move towards a standardized method of capturing film. This view of this rule reinforces what has already been stated about the Dogme rules earlier. Namely that the Dogme movement
32 is interested in shifting the definition of film away from the production techniques used to capture a sequence, and place the honorary title into the "real" world and onto the action itself. The second half of this rule seems to enforce this as well, due to the fact that it reduces filmic lighting technique down to a single, camera mounted light. In some scenes found commonly in The King is Alive this can cause a "Blair Witch Project" effect, in which the viewer is hopelessly aware of the camera due to the light being emitted from the camera. Of course, for Dogme, this breaking of the fourth wall isn't a concern, because a Dogme film doe s not need or rely on a transparency of production, merely a simplicity. 5.) Optical work and filters are forbidden. This may be seen as the post production mirror to rule number four, which also has to do with lighting. This rule, on the other hand, for bids any sort of modification to be placed upon the original film. This rule once again places the importance in filmmaking away from the literal filmmaking, that is, the production of a certain amount of feet of celluloid, and onto what is being captured, and showing it in some veristic manner. This rule is unique in the Vow of Chastity due to the fact that it is the only rule that expressly prohibits action in the post production stage of filmmaking. It should be stated quickly that many of the rules hav e side effects that ripple into the post production stage of filming, such as the ban on non diegetic audio. Additionally, rule #7, which prohibits temporal and geographical alienation, helps to determine how a film must be arranged for the final edit.
33 Yet, Despite these ripple effects,' there are surprisingly no rules in the Vow that prohibit how a film may be cut, the quantity of film that may be shot for a particular length of film, or whether the order of shooting must match the order of presentatio n in the final product. So the question must be asked, why are there no rules more strictly regulating the efforts of filmmaking during the editing stage, and why is this rule included? The first question is difficult to answer, but it may have much to do with the vow's general focus on the actual process of shooting, rather than post production. It may also be related to the fact stated above that there are a few rules which implicitly restrict editing. These have been deemed to be enough. A third, slightl y more controversial possibility is that Dogme 95 as a movement has no interest in the techniques used in editing and post production, and that it is merely concerned with how film is shot. This last option seem highly unlikely, due to the high amount of c ontinuity seen in the editing of Dogme films, there are no editing tricks in the vein of Goddard's jump cuts. This continuity implies that there is something in the rules which already by itself restricts or discourages post production of a certain kind fr om occurring. This leads to the question of why this rule is deemed necessary in Dogme. This simple restriction may have simply been deemed necessary to prevent people from attempting to evoke feeling through creative color manipulation during post product ion. Without this rule, Dogme filmmakers would be free to turn their entire film into monochrome or dramatically alter the saturation of color, entirely bypassing rule #4's demand to only shoot in color, which really means only shooting in color one can ac hieve using a handheld camera.
34 This rule in particular highlights the relationship Dogme has with the related concepts of truth and honesty. There is a sense that many of the rules, with this one specifically, are put into place in order to avoid having t he audience be "lied" to in any manner. This is a particularly interesting dilemma within the Dogme movement as the act of filmmaking in its entirety may be viewed as crafting a fabricated world. In fact, the dishonesty that Dogme seems to so deeply abhor is very commonly, if not universally understood by the audience and accepted. No one actually believes that there are aliens with a "plan 9 from outer space," yet they buy into the myth in order to be entertained by the story being told. This is even true for stories which are not science fiction based. For instance, no one watches American Pie and sees it as a documentary on modern day teen life. In the same vein, a film like The Idiots is being equally "dishonest," as it is fabricating actions which do not happen in the course of spontaneous life. The film is "fabricated" so to speak. Yet this is one of Dogme's true strengths, because it truly does blur the line between honest action and fabrication. This would be a good time to discuss the following rul e, which also speaks to a similar theme. 6.) The film must not contain superficial action (murders, weapons, etc. must not occur.) This rule severely limits the types of stories that a Dogme movie may tell, as it removes much of the romantic flairs that are present even in movies that claim to be realist in intent. This rule, similar to rule number five before it, prevents the director from being "dishonest" with the audience. Of course, this minor concession towards honesty
35 merely occults the fact that t he entire filmmaking process is one of fabricating an "intentional lie". The so called honesty of Dogme does raise a truly interesting ideological problem. If in the ideal Dogme 95 film, the actions on camera are all actually happening, if the actors are truly performing every action that they seem to be performing, then the lines between honest action and fabricated action become all the more difficult to pick out. To highlight this point, just simply imagine the similarities between an honest documentar y, a documentary which is falsified not through any superficial means, but simply by "acting out" the actions being documented, and a Dogme 95 film. If one were simply to remove the certificate of Dogme 95 from the beginning of the third film, I do not bel ieve I would be able to differentiate between these three kinds of film, despite their radically different intentions. This is perfectly highlighted by von Trier's own Dogme film, The Idiots which is shot very much like a documentary, complete even with interviews which take place presumably (but not explicitly) after the main story arc of the film. This film is particularly interesting to look at for this rule, due to the fact that it blurs the line between superficial action and acting. When the actors of The Idiots go out in public and pretend to be mentally handicapped, are they acting superficially? If you told one of the unwitting citizens of Denmark who interacted with them during the film's shooting, I believe they would say the answer is yes, yet the actors never actually pretend to do anything they in fact will not or cannot do. Except for, of course, the act of pretending to be mentally handicapped. But is this in fact different from pretending to be somebody you are not?
36 What this mental game f orces us to question is the actual intent of Dogme. The difficulty of this question is that the answer appears to lie somewhere between "telling a story as simply as possible" and "removing all dishonesty from the manufacturing of film." The question is fu rther complicated by the religious fervor that is instilled in much of the Dogme rhetoric, making it appear as if there is some sort of moral or ideological underpinning to the movement to which a select few have a deep conviction in upholding. This religi ous fervor is complicated still further when one realizes that every director involved in the making of a Dogme film has moved on to make other films which go against this ideology completely. No one more so than Lars Von Trier, whose last two films, Melan cholia and Antichrist have broken nearly every single one of Dogme's sacred rules. While it is not surprising that such a talented director would move on from an experience like Dogme, it certainly raises questions as to the intent of the extremely ideolo gical language used in the movement's literature. Rule # six also brings up a slew of ethical questions which must be addressed. In Harmony Korine's confession for Julien Donkey Boy he admits to not using an actual miscarried fetus in his film. He also a dmits to Chloe Sevigney not actually being pregnant despite his attempts. While these admittances carry a certain light humor with them, it highlights the fact that there are just some things you cannot naturally create on film ethically, and if one desire s these elements in one's film, one must either transgress societal norms or fabricate an appropriate replacement. While this rule does not entirely encourage a filmmaker to go out and murder someone in the name of honest cinema, this is certainly one pote ntiality a person may draw from this rule.
37 On the other hand, this rule may be viewed in an ethically positive light. By encouraging filmmakers to only perform actions that are not superficial, they make it impossible to create the strange realities that are created by many mainstream movies, especially in the action genre. One may say that this rule establishes a respect for "mundane" life, which can very often be overtaken by the excitement of an on screen explosion. 7.) Temporal and Geographical Aliena tion are forbidden. (that is to say that the film takes place here and now) This rule prevents any historic or futuristic films from taking place. Also, while not stating this expressly, this rule generally encourages Dogme films to move in a more or less linear fashion with respect to chronology. This shows the emphasis that Dogme places on film as a medium which is supposed to find its strength in plot and acting. The removal of the ability to transverse large distances or times requires filmmakers to be come more creative in their own world, and not to rely on the easy thrills of unknown worlds. Yet this rule is strangely vague, and calls into question what exactly temporal and geographical alienation are. For instance, in Julien Donkey Boy is the quick shifting of location, often without any previous context, an example of geographical alienation? Or what about the flashback still frames found in the same movie? Do flashbacks belong in the category of temporal alienation? How alienated does one have to go in order to for it to count?
38 These questions truly highlight the qualitative rather than quantitative nature of this seemingly simple rule. It appears to reside in a realm of touch and feel.' That is, does a particular scene feel temporally or geograp hically alienating? This rule seems to generate a number of potentially unanswerable questions, due to its vague nature This vague nature leads to yet another question. What is the purpose in Dogme for this rule? 8.) Genre movies are not acceptable. This rule is one of the strangest in Dogme, and fits in with rule number seven as rules that appear to be more qualitative in enforcement rather than a quantitative rule like "The film must be in color" in which there can be no question as to whether someone i s following the rule or not. This rule is complex because of the fact that it is hard to say exactly what is meant by a genre movie. There are a few genres that undeniably fit in this category (many of which also lose Dogme status due to rule #7), such as westerns, sci fi films, horror films, and the like. However, does a film like Italian for Beginners which clearly fits the bill as a romantic comedy, count as a genre film? There is also the fact that the Dogme rules seem to encourage a certain type of f ilm. For instance, there are many Dogme films that could be considered "family melodramas" such as The Celebration Mifune, and Kira's Reason Then there are the films that deal with psychological disturbances, such as Julien Donkey Boy, The Idiots, and Th e King is Alive Could these be considered genres that have existed and thrived within the confines of Dogme, despite its apparent hostility towards genre film? Then there is even the more damning question of whether Dogme itself can be considered a genre of sorts. All of its films do have certain formulas that need to be
39 followed, just as in a genre. In fact, this was one of the main criticisms of Dogme as it was reaching its death. People found the Dogme genre' exploited its own perceived image, playing into public expectations. This rule also appears to be out of place due to its position as the only rule that doesn't reference a technical feature of filming. All of the other rules of Dogme appear to have a relationship to the actual physical process o f shooting a film, while this rule merely prohibits some abstract concept that is difficult to pin down. 9.) The film format must be Academy 35mm. This rule is one of the most straightforward of the rules, insofar as it is relatively easy to follow. However, it is interesting in one regard. This is the fact that aside from rule number four, it appears to be the only rule dealing with the post production aspect of filmmaking. Why is there less of a focus on the post production process the Dogme rules? One aspect of this question may have to do with the fact that with the available technology at the time, there would be very little ability to edit films at all without post production techniques. However, this may appear to be very little of an issue for a movement that wants to downplay the power of the director and increase the honesty of cinema. Especially since it was a tradition of Dogme directors to encourage improvisational takes and "go with the flow". Why not just say that the film must be shot as it is intended to be shown? Is it possible that this would be too hardcore even for Dogme? The actual answer as to why there is no rule prohibiting all post production in Dogme may have to do with the infeasibility of this method when combined with the
40 intention to produce a commercial film. Despite all its hardline rhetoric and alienating rules, Dogme remains very much, and very consciously in the realm of commercial film. It had no intention of starting a truly "underground" film movement. This brings rule number nine into a much more understandable light, as it establishes the fact that Dogme films do not represent a free standing "artistic" movement, but rather a movement with intentions towards commercial success. 10.) The Director must not be c redited. Out of all the Dogme rules, this one is the most purely symbolic, with no intention, or arguably even possibility of being followed through as an earnest rule. There is not a single Dogme movie that has not broken this rule, in the sense that wit h every Dogme movie that received a certificate, the director is known. However, the symbolic significance of this rule cannot be overstated. Just as many of the Dogme rules transferred the significance of film from the celluloid to the action going on in front of the camera, this rule is a symbolic transfer of creative power away from the director. Yet, it is hard to say where this creative energy is being transferred to. In one sense it is being transferred to serendipity and chance, in the sense that th ese two factors play a larger role in a Dogme film than they do in a more standard film. It could also be said that the creative agency is being transferred to the actors in front of the camera, who are given much more freedom under Dogme sovereignty. Des pite this symbolic transfer of power, it is very often practically not the case that the director gives up control, or fails to make his or her mark easily seen on a movie. Julien Donkey Boy is a shining example of a Dogme film which owes nearly everything
41 to its director. No one else could have shot this movie, and while the actors provide the director with the raw materials needed to craft this film, it is unmistakable who had the final creative say on the production of this film.
42 Madness, Religion, and Law There is a conceptual point, often implied but almost never explored, where the concepts of law, religion, and madness meet. A perfect example of this may be found in the story of Moses on Mount Sinai, where he is both overwhelmed by the vision of God manifest, and given a mandate for his people in the form of the Ten Commandments. Here, within the greater framework of religion, madness and rule of law are united on the same mountaintop. Another historic example of this may be found in th e story of Martin Luther, who saw the madness and hypocrisy of the Catholic Church and posted a list of theses (quite similar to laws), on the doors of the Catholic Church. So too are these concepts married in the strange religiosity of Dogme 95. To explor e this marriage, there is no better place than Lars von Trier's Dogme film, The Idiots and the first American Dogme certified film, Julien Donkey Boy I will show how these films perfectly exemplify the marriage of these three concepts, and how this marria ge is an inexorable part of the fabric of Dogme 95. In order to show this, we must first examine how these three concepts are immediately apparent upon a quick glance at the film movement. This will allows us to map their significance on each individual f ilm to the larger picture of Dogme 95 as a whole. This will be done mainly by examining the Dogme 95 Manifesto and seeing which parts of it may be placed within each of the three categories. After analyzing this, we must examine the two films themselves, w ith special attention to these three categories. Furthermore, the analysis of these films will show how they indeed may be seen as Mount Sinais themselves, uniting the three concepts in a conceptual marriage.
43 The first step of this examination is to catego rize statements, sentiments, and elements of the Dogme Manifesto into the categories of madness, religion, and law. First let us populate the category of religion. It would be easy to describe and rationalize a number of implied and possible similarities t hat the manifesto shares with a religious document, but for our purpose, that is to find traces of these themes in the Dogme Manifesto and then link it to those same themes found within the films, it would not be enough to simply explain the similarities t hat a manifesto has with a religious doctrine; or how the intentional "self othering" of the movement may be related to the practices of early Christianity. Rather, to categorize a particular element, we must show how the element in question directly falls under the category of religion. The first element which fits this category is the name of the "Ten Commandments" of Dogme 95: the Vow of Chastity (See chapter 2). The fact that this term expressly belongs to the category of religion should be apparent d ue to the fact that the mental image most readily painted by this phrase is closer to the image of an isolated, world weary monk or nun, and not a rebellious filmmaker like Lars von Trier. The use of this term within its context has a defamiliarizing effec t on the reader, as it is not the typical language associated with film. The term naturally guides the reader's mind towards the religious, and once the manifesto reader's mind is there, it soon becomes easy to pick out religious elements. For instance, in the manifesto, the word "God" is used once, when it is stated that "Today a technological storm is raging of which the result is the elevation of cosmetics to God" (Stevenson 22). While the use of the word God clearly has religious connota tions, what is truly interesting about this is the manner in which it is used. The God mentioned
44 is set up as a false one, whose Godhood is ultimately responsible for the failures of common film. This statement clearly fits into the category of religion, b ut what is not so clear is what the writers of the manifesto imagined when they used this word. Were they intending to state that elevation of anything to godlike heights is negative, or merely the cosmetic? While these are certainly open questions, it see ms more likely that it is the "raising" which is truly the problem here from the Dogme brotherhood. That anything except for the moving image accompanied by sound should be raised to godhood in film is truly the notion that the Manifesto writers seem to be questioning. Another clearly religious element found within Dogme is not actually contained within the Manifesto, yet still bears mentioning since it has entered the Dogme canon.' This is the Dogme filmmaker's use of a "confession." The use of a confessi on was a tradition born out of the nigh impossible task of the Dogme filmmaker: to strictly obey every rule of the Vow of Chastity. The confession for Dogme expresses the filmmaker's failures to hold up to the standards of this vow. This tradition was init iated by the very first Dogme certified director, Thomas Vinterberg. This early creation and near universal adoption goes to show just how difficult it is to toe the line the Vows put before filmmakers. The concept of a confession that chronicles the sins of the filmmaker has obvious connections to the Catholic practice of confessing your sins to a priest in order to cleanse yourself of their negative influence. Interestingly, just as nearly all practicing Catholics confess, nearly all Dogme filmmakers wr ite a confession to bring their transgressions out of hiding and to the public. However, there are significant differences between the intent and practice of each confession. For Catholics, the confession is a private matter between the confessor and
45 the p riest. For Dogme, the public takes the role of the priest, yet the same cleansing process occurs. A pressing question that arises from this connection is whether the Dogme filmmakers view their transgressions against the Vow of Chastity in the same manner as Catholics view their transgressions against God's law. When we are exploring the answer to this question, it quickly becomes apparent that the practice of confession has some bleed over from the category of religion into the category of law. This is bec ause a confession (in both the Catholic and Dogme sense), has to do with accounting for transgressions against a body of law. Furthermore, both doctrines believe that humans are destined to fail in the strict obedience to the body of law relevant to them. The confession in both cases stands as a failsafe for the inevitable transgression, so that persons in question, be they a Catholic sinner or a Dogme director, achieves a sense of closure with respect to their mistakes, which allows them to move forward an d away from those mistakes. There would be no confessions without laws to transgress. The biggest and most important entry into this category for Dogme 95 is the body of law known as the Vow of Chastity. This has been discussed in depth in a previous chapt er, so I will only remark that the reliance on this set of laws as the underpinning to the Dogme movement goes to show how important the category of law is to Dogme 95. This importance was highlighted when Harmony Korine claimed to add an 11th rule to Dog me 95. This law stated "no plot, stories are fine." By adding this law, Korine opened up the question of whether or not one can add a new law to Dogme and still call it Dogme. Is it enough that he obeys the rules in place, or has he fundamentally changed t he nature of the movement by adding a new rule like this?
46 Madness is the final category, and the most difficult to discuss. While there are no elements which fit into this category outright that are contained within the Manifesto, the birth of the manifes to is surrounded with elements which may be categorized as madness. There is first the creation of the manifesto itself, which was reportedly created in thirty minutes amongst bouts of laughter and flowing wine (Gaut 89). There is also the fact that von T rier has spoken in the past about his own neurosis, and how he saw Dogme 95 as a cure for these neuroses. He states that "I can get extremely afraid of not having control when I want it. The best situation I can imagine would be to accept the lack of contr ol" (Schepelern 64). What makes this interesting and relevant to the category of madness is that the neurosis von Trier was struggling with was the Apollonian urge to control and manipulate his environment, which he felt was stifling his creativity. His so lution was to craft a process in which chaos would necessarily have to seep into his filmmaking process. This self inflicted punishment/cure definitely can fall into the category of madness. Now that these categories have been discussed in terms of how th ey relate to the Dogme Manifesto, it is time to see how they relate to the two previously mentioned movies. I will first cover how they relate to Lars von Trier's The Idiots But first, a small amount of background into the film is necessary. Dogme 95 was always a risky proposition, both financially and artistically. It is not so much the ideas it presented, most of which had been experimented with before. It was rather the manner in which they were presented which gave them their air of risk. Because of t his risk, the very public success of the first Dogme 95 movie, The Celebration was all the more a victory for the movement. The film was both a financial
47 and critical success, winning the Jury's Special Prize at Cannes in 1998 as well as grossing 12 milli on US dollars on an approximately 1 million US final budget (Stevenson 87). However, the victory was not unmitigated. The grand architect of the movement, and its most public proponent, Lars von Trier, had still not shown what Dogme 95 could do in his hand s. For this, audiences would have to wait for Dogme #2, The Idiots The Idiots bears an uncanny resemblance to the Dogme 95 movement as a whole. For one, they share the same creator. The father of Dogme 95, Lars von Trier, was the creative force behind thi s movie, both writing the script and directing the film. For von Trier, both the creation of Dogme 95 and The Idiots had both a public element and a more personal element as their motivation. There was the public motivation of desiring to reimagine the way in which film could work and push the boundaries of what makes a good film. His neurotic attention to detail and his phobia of disorder and chaos were his more private motivation for creating Dogme 95 and The Idiots. For proof of the highly personal natur e of this film for von Trier, one simply has to look at the stories which surround its production. The Idiots like the Dogme Manifesto, have nearly mythological origins, both being said to have been made in a flash of creative abundance. The Manifesto is said to have been written in thirty minutes, amid bouts of uncontrollable laughter. The Idiots on the other hand, was said to have been written in four days of frantic writing. Speed has a clear relation to spontaneity; this increase in spontaneity is wh at von Trier was most likely aiming for. He has said many times that he saw Dogme 95 as a sort of creative therapy for himself, as he felt stifled by his own neurotic perfectionism.
48 Another myth presented about the origin of The Idiots sheds light onto a g reater issue felt within Dogme 95. This is the tension between uncompromising idealism and the friction that is created when this ideal confronts the world of action. It has been said that after writing the script and showing it to the actors once, he imme diately threw the script away. However, this anecdote appears to be based on an idealistically minded revision of the true history of the film. Rather, the film was a result of careful planning and followed closely to the original script. Indeed, it has be en said that the cast's early attempts at improvisation were met with failure, which prompted von Trier to stick even more closely to the script than he had originally envisioned, prompting the claim that "The idiots is at heart just as formalistic as Euro pa where every single shot was planned down to the last detail" (Schelpelern Film 1). Out of this highly controlled "chaos," von Trier was able to craft a story of a high complexity. The movie manages to stand up aesthetically by itself, yet it becomes par ticularly rich when the viewer has a mind for Dogme as a whole when watching it. The very plot of the movie could be interpreted as an allegory for the birth and life of Dogme 95 and its directors. Both the main characters of the movie and the progenitors of Dogme 95 off the silver screen are an insular group of intellectuals who are chafing against the prevailing bourgeois norms of their world. For the creators of Dogme, this means going against the machine of Hollywood, for the collective of "spassers" in The Idiots this means the whole of polite Danish society. Another relation between the "stories" of both groups has to do with the question at hand, for they both combine elements of religion, law, and madness to craft a creative space for them to expres s themselves. This relationship has already been partially
49 examined for the Dogme 95 movement. As a quick recap, the most obvious religious elements in Dogme 95 are the Vow of Chastity and the confession. The law element can also be related to the Vow of C hastity, while the madness element has to do more with von Trier's own neurosis rather than any specific element of The Dogme 95 Manifesto. The three separate elements converge around the Vow of Chastity, which is both a religious icon, a body of law, and made to promote a form of madness: namely, the destruction and limiting of the filmic aesthetic. This limiting of the tools used to create a film resembles a sort of feigned ignorance, much like the spassers own feigned ignorance. The central point which connects the disparate elements of religion, law, and madness, and serves as a stand in for the Vow of Chastity, is the practice of "spassing". This practice is the central aspect to the group that is focused on in the film. The practice of spassing involv es the "spassers" acting as if they are mentally retarded, thus removing all societal inhibitions. A potential spasser is encouraged to release his or her "inner idiot" and cut out all ideas of right and wrong. They either do this in private at their Spart an house, or in public, to the chagrin of the townspeople of Sollerod. I will show now how spassing is related to the three elements being discussed. Spassing has an obvious connection with madness, as the act itself involves a sort of willed madness to be gin with. However, this does not fully describe the relationship spassing has with the concept of madness. To begin with, the concept of willed madness is a sort of paradox to begin with, as there is always an element of non willing implied in madness. Thi s paradox perfectly reflects the paradox von Trier runs into when he tries to create a chaotic and spontaneous filming environment through the implementation of
50 rules. This approach, the same in both cases, is often seen as a farce, as it may be seen in so me ways to be a sort of "disingenuous madness." However, the issue of madness is not confined to this synthetic hysteria. The characters in this film would occasionally enter more convincing and less planned or contrived states of madness, which were often difficult to stop. A perfect example of this is when a city official comes to the house where the protagonists are living, trying to get them to move to another town. The leader of the group, Stoffer, enters into a very convincing state of single minded r age. Stoffer rips his own clothes off and chases the city official down the street. Even after the official has left the scene of the crime, Stoffer cannot be placated, and the group eventually has to strap him down in the attic until he calms down. There is also evidence that at least one of the members of the group, Josephine, has actual diagnosed mental issues -a fact that comes to light after her father storms into the commune and takes her away. These occurrences cannot help but call into question ever y act of spassing that the film presents. The film purposely blurs the line between true madness and a sort of "acted out" madness, a line that von Trier would have been all too familiar with encountering during the shooting of a Dogme film. The act of spa ssing also has ties to the Vow of Chastity as a body of law. Specifically, both attempt to control behavior mostly through subtraction. That is, the suppression and minimization of certain elements. This is more obvious and clear cut when we examine the Vo w of Chastity, due to the fact that all ten rules are prohibitive in nature. However, this type of control is also a part of spassing, as the active participants must shut down large portions of their "normal" thought patterns in order to effectively
51 spass From this perspective, it may be said that spassing does indeed constitute obedience towards a body of rules, albeit ones that are not as laid out and explicit as the Vow of Chastity. The fact that there is a set of unspoken prohibitive rules may be prov en by the fact that many of the characters are called out, mainly by the group leader, Stoffer, for not taking the spassing seriously, or not having their heart in it. In Stoffer's eyes this clearly constitutes a breach in what he thought was an invaluable element of spassing. The final point to be discussed about spassing is its relationship to religion. This is harder than the other two to quantify, but is definitely a present element. There is first the fact that the group of spassers lives communally, j ust as the adherents to a juvenile religion, such as Christianity in its early years, would. There is also the extreme difference in practice and world view that is often present in a radical religious following. However, perhaps the strongest connection t he group in The Idiots has with religion is the idea that the act of spassing contains a salvific power, which has the ability to repair and heal a damaged psyche, and transform it into a happy one. Once again, the character of Josephine provides a perfect model for this theory. There is evidence that she uses spassing as a sort of replacement for her psychiatric medication, saying that she no longer needs it. Yet is it truly a cure for madness to simply replace it with another form of madness? Interestingl y, despite its radically experimental basis, not all of Dogme 95's adherents veer off into the territory of the truly strange or unusual. While there are indeed films, like von Trier's own The Idiots which push the common notions of film to their limits, there are that many more movies, like The Celebration and Mifune which aside
52 from their minimal production methods, are typical independent cinema fare. There is even one Dogme film, Italian for Beginners that, despite its primitive' art house style prod uction, was able to gain great financial, popular, and critical response. This is, despite its allegiance to the mischievous Dogme family, was a romantic comedy of the common variety, with not even a hint of the darkness which was common amongst the initia l films. Despite this, there is a contingent of Dogme films which pushes both the boundaries of Dogme itself and film as a whole. These mostly non Danish Dogme films were spearheaded by the release of Julien Donkey Boy the first American, and possibly t he most radically experimental film to come out of Dogme 95. Korine took a different approach to the making of a Dogme film compared to his Danish predecessors. Much of this difference has to do with the fact that the foreign Dogme film scene evolved in a highly different manner from the scene that grew out of Denmark. The ultimate difference between the Dogme of Denmark compared to the rest of the world has nearly everything to do with money. In Denmark, Dogme was never thought of in terms of money. The Da nish Film Institute has everything to do with this. The DFI is a governmental cultural establishment that was put in place with the purpose of supporting and promoting Danish film. This organization is the main financer of nearly every film to come out of Denmark, and provides money even to films that show artistic promise but little financial progress. This creates an environment in which passionate, talented filmmakers are able to work on the projects they want to work on, rather than ones that show finan cial promise.
53 In America, it is no secret that the film industry is run by a Hollywood mentality. The mantra of this mentality is "bigger, better, more profitable." There is little room for unusual visionaries, unless their unusual vision has shown itself to be profitable. Even for maverick filmmakers that do show the potential to make money, this mentality usually results in a Catch 22 in which a director must first prove themselves as being effective at creating profitable films, yet cannot create profita ble films without first gaining the approval of Hollywood! This was fueled by the common notion that a successful film could not be created without a substantial budget. It is no surprise that if you look at the top grossing films of 1998, the year that th e first Dogme film was officially released, they are all American, and they all had budgets in the tens of millions of dollars, with the cheapest coming in at 23 million and the most expensive coming in at 140 million. It is also no surprise that the top g rossing film of the year was also the film with the biggest budget. In comparison, The Celebration had a relatively modest budget of 1.3 million dollars. What Dogme provided for American filmmakers was a ready made moniker that would provide their movie wi th instant exposure, despite a relatively low budget. Also, by using the Dogme 95 moniker, the money issues a young independent filmmaker confronts become blessings in disguise. As Jesus says in Matthew 19:24: "It is easier for a camel to go through the ey e of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." This sentiment applies to Dogme, where it is far easier for someone with restricted funds to adhere religiously' to the Vow of Chastity than for someone who has access to a large budget and thus to more ways of breaking the rules.
54 Harmony Korine is no stranger to working with low budgets. He is also no stranger to the minimal aesthetic of Dogme 95. Korine began his film career by dropping out of NYU to become the screenwriter for the gritty, voyeuristic drama, Kids (1995), which fol lows the adventures and misdeeds of a group of sexually active teens in New York. It was the success of this film which allowed him the leeway to direct his first film, Gummo (1997). This film was released a year before the first Dogme film, yet shares man y characteristics with it. For instance, both movies have approximately the same budget of 1.3 million. Both were made by up and coming rookie directors, still trying to prove their mettle. While both were not Dogme films, they both did share a similar spi rit of film production. We do not need to go into the details and guidelines of how a Dogme film is made, as that has been covered well enough, but it is interesting to note how similar Gummo 's production is to a full blown Dogme film. Korine reportedly us ed a huge number of cameras in the filming of Gummo which he haphazardly deployed by giving them to the cast and crew of the film. These cameras ranged from primitive super 8s to portable digital cameras. This "wall of camera" film approach complements th e spontaneous action and unscripted action that Korine encouraged in the making of this film. Despite all the similarities, it is important to point out that Gummo is not a Dogme film and does not follow the Vow of Chastity in the slightest. Many of the co stumes seen in the movie were meticulously designed, and the sets were often manipulated to produce the world that Korine desired. Despite these differences, the production of Gummo definitely set Korine as a potential Dogme director.
55 We would have to wait for his second movie as director, Julien Donkey Boy, to see Korine take up the Dogme 95 challenge. For this movie, Korine intended to explore the "inner space" of a deeply schizophrenic young man named Julien, played by Ewen Bremner, and his highly dysfun ctional family life. Ironically, despite this film being almost certainly the least conventional out of all the Dogme films, it contains the closest Dogme 95 gets to an all star cast. In addition to the already mentioned Ewen Bremner (of Trainspotting fame ), the film also featured Chlo Sevigny (who launched her career in the Korine penned Kids ) who plays the role of Julien's sweet sister, Pearl. Most impressively, however, is the inclusion of Werner Herzog as the family's maniacal patriarch, whose credit s imply states "father." Werner Herzog's inclusion in this film was a result of the profound effect that Korine's Gummo had on Herzog when he first saw it. Their mutual respect is confirmed by the fact that Korine has often stated that "when I was a kid [Her zog] was a big influence on me, more than any other director" (Korine 1). One element of Herzog's film philosophy that we can see shining clear in this film is the notion that there is no clear divide between fictional film and documentary film -a statement that would not be out of place in literature about Dogme 95. Korine exploits the thin line that naturally exists between these two categories by making heavy use of improvisation. However Korine takes the improvisational technique a step further than most directors by not only encouraging improvisation between the actors, but also by throwing his actors into the "real world." Korine made liberal use of hidden cameras, which allowed him to set his actors free in the world at large without raising a ny bystander's awareness to the fact that they were being filmed in a movie.
56 In one particularly important scene near the end of the movie, in which Julien cradles a dead fetus in his arms on a public bus, Korine recalls the fact that he was not even on sc ene during the shoot, instead relying on assistants to track down all the occupants of the bus to sign release forms. This scene highlights perfectly the kind of process that created this film. With such a highly improvisational and chaotic process, it wou ld seem hard for Korine to insert any kind of cohesive imagery or meaning throughout the film. Despite this, Korine's film appears to exhibit the three elements that were discussed earlier with von Trier's The Idiots ; namely, madness, religion, and law. In deed, Korine arguably hones in on, and explores these themes with a much greater intensity than von Trier. Like The idiots, Julien Donkey Boy contains a locus point of these three elements coming together into one all important element which resembles to s ome degree the Vow of Chastity. The locus point for Julien Donkey Boy is certainly the character of Julien himself. Julien embodies the seemingly contradictory, and often times volatile mixture of religion, madness, and law which drives Dogme forward. This mixture is found both within his character and surrounding him as well, creating a rich field of interpretation. I will discuss all three elements both in regards to the internality of Julien as well as the events which surround him. The first element to be discussed is law. The most common formulation that law takes, especially in terms of religion, is as a barrier. That is, law does not most commonly take the form of "Thou shalt," but rather, "thou shalt not." This is highly relevant to the most importan t lawgiver that lies outside of Julien. This lawgiver may be appropriately found in Werner Herzog's character: the father. The role of lawgiver is strongly established for this character by his constant demands on his three children. In the case of
57 Chris, the aspiring wrestler, Herzog is constantly imploring him to "sit up straight" or to not be a "sissy." In the case of Julien, the strongest imposition of his father's rule happens when he attempts to recite his poem at the dinner table. The poem is a strea m of consciousness in which words like "eternity", "midnight" and "morning" and interspersed amongst the repetitive mantra of the word "chaos". Herzog quickly shoots his poem down, saying that he hated it, it wasn't a poem, or that it was too "artsy fartsy (an ironic statement coming from Herzog). He enforces his law giving power again, near the end of the film, on Pearl, as she is playing her harp. In this case it goes so far that he attempts to destroy the instrument to keep her from playing. Interestin gly, the father is not content to simply give the laws himself, but rather usually chooses an intermediary and commands them to relay his law to the intended family member. This suggests that he wants to conscript his family members to become enforcers of his law, and not just passively obedient subjects. Julien's own internal relationship with law is riddled with complexities. However there are a few scenes which seem to shed light on his relationship. The first of these scenes to be discussed is the wres tling scene between him and his brother Chris, which is supposed to be done by the books. Julien comes in expecting a wrestling match more akin to those on television rather than the "serious" wrestling which Chris is interested in. He arrives decked out i n a dramatic and slightly silly costume, as well as the wrestling name "Julien the jaba jaba". When Pearl asks the boys to shake at the start of the match, Julien begins to shake his whole body violently, rather than clasp the hand of his brother. These in stances start to show how disconnected Julien's relationship to the world is from the rest of his family.
58 This disconnect becomes further apparent as the wrestling match continues on. It becomes obvious quickly that Julien has no true understanding of wha t is actually going on, and is not actually trying to wrestle Chris. Chris becomes agitated quickly and becomes more violent as the match goes on. However, due to the fact that Julien is unable to understand the "rules of the game," Chris cannot gain a def initive and satisfying victory over him. Even when he successfully pins Julien, his victory is soiled by the fact that Julien appears unaffected, and simply springs up victoriously. This scene tells us much about Julien's relationship to the concept of law We must ask, why is Julien unable to successfully wrestle with Chris. The primary breakdown appears to stem from Julien's ability (or lack thereof) to understand the rules of the game. More specifically, he does not appear to understand the importance th at these rules have for others around him. Despite the clear affection that he has for his brother, which is especially shown after he runs out attempting to comfort Chris after the failed bout, Julien is unable to understand what these rules mean to his b rother, or why they are so important. This analysis would also easily apply to the earlier mentioned scene, in which Julien reads his "Chaos" poem at the dinner table. One of his father's main critiques of the poem is that it "doesn't even rhyme." Julien c ontradicts this claim, stating "yes it does, it rhymes with chaos" and continues on with the poem in the same fashion. It is easy to see here that Julien does not understand the rules of rhyming in the same way that his father does. However, it should also be stated that in both these cases, there is no understanding from the "sane" side of the conflict. Both Chris and his father are brutal
59 and unapologetic about Julien's inability to understand their rules, and respond only with harshness. This relationshi p may be a reflection of Korine's own relationship with the greater film community. He is a director who up to this point has done nothing even close to resembling a Hollywood film, or even an indie film of the time. He speaks in his own language and follo ws his own set of rules. Additionally, the critical community as a whole is harsh towards him, refusing to validate in anyway his cinematic language, as it is too far from their own. Even to this day, his film Gummo holds a 33% "rotten" rating on the criti cal aggregator website Rotten Tomato and the film in question, Julien Donkey Boy holds the astoundingly low rating of 26% "rotten" (Rotten). The second element to be discussed will be madness: an element which takes center stage in this film. This is of course no surprise for a film which is about a deeply schizophrenic young man in a dysfunctional household. Julien experiences madness in his world both internally and externally. We will first examine how madness affects him internally, and then look at how madness occurs in his external world. Julien's own internal madness involves the creation and generation of fictions which have no bearing on the external world. Indeed these fictions often separate even from themselves, and become internally fracture d. There are countless scenes in which this may be examined, but perhaps the strongest example of it occurs when he is alone in his room, having a conversation with Hitler. The scene begins violently, with Julien holding a gun at an invisible person who ha s just entered the room. He screams nonsense at this person before suddenly throwing his gun aside and offering them a seat. This
60 invisible person turns out to be Hitler, and Julien goes over the rules of the house as he guides him in. This conversation is nonsensical and difficult to follow. It is important to note that despite his obvious and deep level of madness, Julien is not completely incapacitated. His madness appears to grow the longer he stays at home with his family. Conversely, he appears and a cts significantly more rational when he interacts with the blind people with whom he spends much time. It seems then that a greater internality and externality may be applied to his life, with his home life being related to his own internality, and his lif e outside in the public (albeit a highly select public) being related to a greater externality. Despite Julien being the clear focusing point with respect to madness, he is in fact living in a world in which madness is all around him. The most obvious exa mples of this may be found within his own family. Each member appears to manifest their own mental issues which are unique from Julien's own problems yet related. These own personal bouts of madness reveal themselves most readily in the scenes where the ch aracters are by themselves. These private scenes tend to repeat themselves throughout the movie, painting a monotonous picture of the inhabitants of the house. The madness most apparent outside of Julien's own mind is his father's, which manifests itself in a myriad of ways. His private scenes consist of him performing a series of strange behaviors by himself in his room. These include smoking cigarettes while wearing a gas mask and drinking copious amounts of over the counter cough syrup, once from a shoe The drinking of the cough syrup is clearly meant for intoxication. In one monologue, as he is drinking the cough syrup, the father demands "give me Everest!
61 Where is Everest?" This must be an allusion to a desire to get "high" or in other words, he is ho ping that the cough syrup will lift him up out of his current situation. The father exhibits madness in more ways than simply getting high off of cough syrup, although once you know this fact, it must be asked at every scene whether or not the father is i ntoxicated off of cough syrup. One of these scenes which particularly forces the observant viewer to check for empty bottles possibly lying about is when he asks his son Chris to put on one of his late mother's dresses. The scene begins when he invites Chr is into his room and asks him to look at two of his mother's dresses which are laid out on the bed. He offers Chris ten dollars to put on the dress and to dance with him like his mother did, since apparently he is the only one that looks like her. This sce ne, while not explicitly damning the father to the category of insanity, certainly stands out as an insane moment. Despite his father being the most clear and present example of external insanity, this does not discount the other family members from shari ng in the madness to lesser degrees. Chris's compulsive training and insistence on being a winner could also be pointed at as signs of deep mental problems. This fact is supported by interspersed stills of him holding a knife to different parts of his body overlaid with a repetitive monologue demanding that he be a winner. Even the sweet Pearl does not seem entirely there at times. This is most readily apparent in her relationship with Julien. Their relationship is defined by the fact that Pearl is the onl y one who is kind to Julien in the family. However, there is evidence that she has taken this kindness a bit too far. During the scene where Pearl is receiving a check up on her pregnancy, it is suggested through quickly flashing images that it was in fact Julien that is the father. Even if this were not the case, their
62 relationship would still have a pathological element evidenced by their "phone" conversation. In this scene, Julien and Pearl are in the house, on the phone with each other. Pearl is pretend ing to be Julien's mother, and tells him to take care of his teeth and that the "voices in his head aren't mean voices." The final element to discuss is religion, a heavily featured motif in Julien Donkey Boy Once again this theme is both apparent inside of Julien's own mental space as well as manifested in the world around him. I will first discuss the theme as it is related to Julien's external world, as I will show later on that this has a direct effect on Julien's own internalization of religion. Jul ien's external experience with religion comes largely in three scenes. The first important scene is his visit to a confession booth, the second is a discussion he has with his blind friends, and the third is his family's visit to a fiery Baptist Church ser vice. These three may be grouped by the fact that the first and last have to do with established religion, while the second scene is a more informal discussion of religion. Of the two scenes which deal with some sort of organized religion, they may be furt her separated by the fact that one is a personal conversation (the confession) while in the other example Julien experiences the religious as part of a group. So from this analysis we may see that the scenes can be organized on a linear scale from "most pe rsonal" to "least personal", with the informal discussion amongst his friends being the most personal, the Baptist ceremony being the least personal, and the confession lying somewhere in the middle. I will discuss these scenes from least personal to most personal. When Julien's family goes to church, they take on an interesting role as distinct outsiders from the world around them. There are few scenes in which the family is seen
63 interacting with the exterior world, and this is the only scene in which the entire family is together, outside the incestuous confines of the household. The family's insular nature is highly noticeable in this scene to the viewer due to the scene's manipulation of race. Julien's family comprises the only Caucasian churchgoers at this otherwise all black congregation. The fact that Korine chose to put them in this church rather than the Catholic Church where Julien went earlier for confession (a church which would at the very least have a more balanced racial profile) seems to be a n obvious choice to draw attention to the singularity and insular nature of this family in this religious setting. However, the racial dynamics of this scene was probably not the only reason for holding the scene in this particular church. While some Chri stian services can appear to focus more on ceremony and symbol, the ceremony which Julien and his family attend is nearly the opposite. There appears to be no formal structure, but rather it is nearly pure passion and feeling. The preacher gives a very imp assioned, yet nearly incomprehensible speech about Jesus before the entire congregation erupts in a rousing version of "ain't nobody do me like Jesus." The ceremony appears to engage the attention of the entire family, with close ups of Pearl and Chris sho wing rapt engagement. However, no one seems more affected than Julien, who at times looks agitated and distressed during the preacher's speech, yet quickly enters a trance like state upon the start of the music. By the end of the scene, tears are rolling d own Julien's face, and he appears to have gone through an intense emotional ordeal. This scene in particular goes a long way towards showing the intense connection that exists between the exterior religious world and Julien's own internal worldview. The p reacher's speech, which discusses the nature of sin and the redeeming of that sin
64 through the blood of Jesus Christ, appears to visibly disturb Julien, suggesting that he experiences this concept of sin as a reality. As the mood turns from this discussion of sin into a song about the salvific power of Jesus, Julien appears to go through a salvific process of his own, causing the tears to flow. This deep internalization of religion in Julien is explored more deeply in the scene where he visits a confession booth. This scene, as mentioned before, stands as the middle ground between an experience of organized religion as a group and religion as experienced as an individual. This is visually highlighted in the film, due to the entire visual focus of the scene b eing on the barrier between the priest and Julien, a perfect symbol for the mixture of personal and organized religion. Julien has come to this priest, voicing concern that he is impure in the eyes of God and Jesus, and that because of this, God has come down and spoken to Julien, casting him out of the body of Christ. This scene has a feeling of improvisation, and may have been one of the scenes in which Julien interacts with an unassuming bystander who has no previous knowledge of the filming process. Th e priest speaks with a nervous cadence that feels very genuine, and he appears not to know exactly what to say about Julien's visions. He moves in rhetorical circles, essentially stating that God and Jesus as he knows them are incapable of willfully castin g a willing subject out of the body of Christ, and that the voices Julien hears may have dark origins, rather than from God. He finishes the discussion by giving Julien a card for a psychiatrist, whom he encourages Julien to call. After this he lets Julien off, but not before asking him to receive a blessing before leaving.
65 Two elements of this scene particularly stand out. These are the profoundly impersonal and disconnected response the priest provides to Julien and the paranoid internal religious life t hat is suggested by Julien's claims. The fact that these are the two most apparent elements of this scene further bolsters the claim that this scene stands as a middle ground between personal religious experience and organized religion. The fact that the priest is so disconnected from Julien reflects Julien's general relationship with the outside world. A scene which runs parallel to this scene in terms of feeling is the scene in which Julien is taking his dead baby home on the public bus. These scenes are connected due to both having the feeling of a spontaneous scene in which the public is unaware of the production of the film. Additionally, both scenes involve Julien very publicly revealing a disturbing and unusual part of his life in a public space. In the confession scene, this part is his paranoid beliefs about God, while in the bus scene it is his child's dead body. In both scenes, the exterior world reacts to these disturbing revelations by impersonally turning away from them, rather than facing them head on. On the bus scene, the public quite literally turns away from Julien in disgust, with one woman simply getting up and moving when Julien sits down next to her. There is no empathy or concern in the reactions of the public. No one comes up to Juli en and asks him what is wrong. Everyone instead chooses to look away. While the priest's reaction does not appear to be nearly as cold on the surface, a further investigation shows his reaction to be at least as cold, if not more. As a priest, he is assume d to be charitable and helpful towards at least the people of his flock, if not all of humanity. Due to this position, he cannot turn Julien away outright like the passive travelers did on the bus. However, this does not mean that he feels entirely obligat ed to help Julien at all. The cold hard fact
66 is that he does nothing at all to help Julien, just like the people on the bus. Instead he shucks Julien off on a random psychological expert whom he must assume Julien will never contact. His outreach is all su rface and no substance. Despite the fact that even the religious figures of this film treat Julien with indifference at best and disgust at worst, Julien still takes a religious worldview and internalizes it. Perhaps while internalizing this religious wor ldview, Julien has also internalized the disgust and indifference the outside world feels towards him. This would explain the anger that he senses from God towards him. This would also go a long way towards explaining what he has to say about religion duri ng the scene in which he sits with a number of his blind friends discussing God. The discussion begins with one of Julien's blind friends saying that he prays every day to give him strength to handle his blindness. A blind albino gently challenges him, a sking if he wonders why God chose to make him blind. The religious conversation is a mixture of well meaning Biblical misquotes from some of the blind friends, an impassioned call for a personal relationship with God separate from the church. Of course whe n Julien enters the conversation, he is bound to be completely different from everyone else. Surprisingly, he comes the closest to an accurate portrayal of Christianity by nearly accurately quoting two laws from the Bible. First is Leviticus 19:14, which s tates Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind," the second law he quotes is the less accurately quoted "cursed is he who sleeps with his sister." The first quote seems to be an honest belief of Julien's as he spends the entire film working with the blind in a truly beautiful relationship. The second quote hits painfully close to
67 home, seemingly embedded in Julien's mind due to his own implied relationship with his sister. If these two laws are assumed to be deeply ingrained in Julien's psyche (a risky claim due to his erratic nature), they would perfectly show two contrasting elements of his nature which hinge around the element of religion. The internalization of these two laws shows both the salvific and damaging force relig ion has on Julien's psyche. On the one hand, there is the incredibly tender charity that Julien is compelled towards in relation to his blind friends. On the other hand, it also reveals the incredible amount of self loathing which religion has burrowed int o Julien's mind. These seemingly paradoxical influences appear to hold a similar relationship that Dogme has as a whole with technology. For Dogme, technology is both a salvific force as well as a damaging one, just as religion is for Julien. The evidence for this may be found in the Dogme Manifesto, in which there are two paragraphs dealing with technology. They each begin in the same manner, yet veer far apart from each other. The first statement contains a generally positive outlook on technology, sayin g Today a technological storm is raging, the result of which will be the ultimate democratization of the cinema." This statement points towards the heavy debt that the Dogme movement has towards technology. Without modern technology, the idea of rapid and spontaneous filmmaking, devoid of any sort of accoutrement would have been a nigh impossible task. The whole idea of logistically minimal film relies on technology that enables this minimization to take place! Without a sufficiently small camera which can work in all sorts of different lighting situations, a method of picking up sound which is
68 mobile and simple, and a number of other comparatively modern technologies, Dogme 95 would not be able to form. Despite this dependent relationship which Dogme 95 ha s with technology, its relationship is not entirely rosy. The previously mentioned quote is mirrored later in the manifesto, with the second iteration stating Today a technological storm is raging of which the result is the elevation of cosmetics to God. B y using new technology anyone at any time can wash the last grains of truth away in the deadly embrace of sensation. The illusions are everything the movie can hide behind (Stevenson 22) Ironically, despite its dependence on technology, Dogme's main enem y in filmmaking, namely cosmetics, is as much a technological child as Dogme itself is. While both of these films have been shown to be strongly connected to the Dogme 95 movement as a whole, they don't exactly paint the brightest picture for this method of creation. While each film has brief moments where the characters within experience bouts of sublime happiness, the ending of both movies is grim, and bear bad news for the practice of Dogme as a whole. In the case of von Trier's group of idiots, they s oon learn that the gravity of everyday life weighs far too heavily for them to be idiots forever. The group disbands slowly but surely as real' life begins to encroach on their fantasy world. Eventually there is nothing left to the movement but the final defiant action of the latecomer Karen, the only one who even attempts to spass in her everyday life. However, the action seems highly inappropriate and out of place once the audience learns that the day she left to join the idiots was the day of mourning f or her deceased son, who has not even been mentioned until this point of the movie. The mortal stakes with which this scene
69 confronts her spassing makes it seem completely foolish and out of place, like a futile bout of escapism. Interestingly, von Trier would never make a Dogme film again after this first one. Could it be that he too began to recognize a certain silliness to Dogme that makes it incapable of interacting with such mortal stakes? While any attempts to answer this question would be mere specu lation, the fact remains that in many ways the downfall of Dogme mirrors the downfall of the idiots in a nigh prophetic manner. Dogme in its later years began to fall victim to claims that the movement itself has become a form of genre, creating a tautolog ical nightmare when combined with the movement's own prohibition against genre. This criticism finds a parallel in Stoffer's own savage criticism of the group he leads. Namely, that they are unable to break out of the genre' of existence known as bourgeo is life.' This claim is backed up by the fact that later in the movie, their own attempts at spassing begin to resemble more and more a bourgeois existence that they tried so hard to escape. When Katrine blackmails Henrik at his office job by spassing in the middle of an important meeting and then demanding that he give her his credit card in exchange for her leaving, bourgeois existence creeps through the interpersonal cracks of the group, slowly tearing their ideals apart. One of the more successful Dogm e films, Italian for Beginners comes to mind in this scene. This film, while adhering very strictly to the ideal of the Dogme film, is in actuality a romantic comedy, potentially damning it as a genred' film. This film takes advantage of the Dogme aesthe tic and moniker and ends up making windfall profits because of this. In a similar manner, Katrine uses her well honed spassing abilities towards petty and bourgeois goals.
70 Katrine goes on to use his credit card to purchase all sorts of expensive food items such as caviar and champagne. When she brings this feast back to the idiots' home, they begin to dig into the food using relatively polite table manners. However, Stoffer soon pronounces that if "you can spass with yogurt you can spass with caviar!" The polite meal soon breaks down into a Dionysian revel, with people shoving whole handfuls of caviar in their mouths and then spitting it back out. While it can only be assumed that this action was intended to free the spassers from the weight of the inherent value of the food they were consuming, the act as seen on the screen feels off somehow. It eventually begins to resemble less and less an overcoming of bourgeois values and rather a grotesque grand format display of these values. The spassers, especially Stoffer, begin to resemble the idealized (or demonized) capitalist, who should at any given time have money to burn. This scene, while providing an effective example of bourgeois values seeping into a seemingly non bourgeois environment, is in fact only th e tip of the iceberg. The true fact is that the entire project the idiots set out on is supported by a bourgeois framework. One easy example is that Henrik still must return to work when he is called, as he has a never seen family which he must support. Th is issue goes down to the very roots of the movement. The home which they are living in belongs to Stoffer's Uncle, who has entrusted it to Stoffer to sell. Without this idyllic sanctuary, it is highly unlikely that the idiots would be able to exist. The D anish Dogme movement has its own parallels to these deep hypocrisies. The not so well kept dirty secret of the Danes who subscribed to the ideals of Dogme is that there was no actual risk in what they are doing, at least financially. All of the Dogme
71 films that came from the motherland of Denmark were financially supported by either the Danish Film Institute (a governmental institution), or through von Trier's production company Zentropa, which in turn was supported financially by the DFI. What this means i s that the Danish Dogme directors never needed to worry about whether their films would make money or not. It was this support network that allowed them to experiment so freely, and this is arguably the reason why Dogme exists at all. Without the ever lovi ng protection of the bourgeois state of Denmark, the Dogme movement would not have a home where they could "act the idiot." So, the experiment of combining measurements of madness, law, and religion to the filmmaking process was poisoned from the start. In both The Idiots as well as in the Danish Dogme landscape, a fourth ingredient, bourgeois privilege, was in the mix from the beginning. The hard question that must be considered from this point is whether Danish Dogme as a whole was a failure or not. Is th e defiant mixture of madness, religion, and law which is the Dogme 95 creative process bound to fold into the madness of modern life, the religion of Hollywood, and the law of the bourgeois? Is the end of Dogme as grim as the ending for the idiots' experim ent? There is one character in The Idiots who provides a ray of light in this respect. Appropriately, this is the first character seen in this film: Karen. Karen is by and far the character who most engenders a sense of empathy. She is almost immediately e stablished as a poor character, who can only afford a salad for lunch when she encounters the idiots for the first time. She is the one character who appears truly kind to the truly mentally ill. We see this kindness early on when she consoles the incorrig ible Stoffer, who makes a scene in the restaurant and refuses to leave without her.
72 She graciously offers to go outside with him, despite the fact that at this point, she does not even know that he is faking! Her involvement in the group is entirely accide ntal, and at first she stands with them as an aloof outsider. Yet she still stands with them. Because of her outsider status she brings with her a fresh perspective on the idiots' endeavor. She initially interprets the spassing as "poking fun," although sh e is never specific at whom she believes they are poking fun. For most of her stay with the group she doesn't spass at all, instead merely staying with them as their guest. Her decision to stay with the group is not explained early on, and her actions sign al to the audience her status as a lost and drifting soul. The group's willingness to take her in, and their unconditional love for her is perhaps their greatest redeeming factor as a unit. When she reveals that the day she joined them was the day of her s on's funeral, the revelation can only be described as shocking, both onscreen and to the viewer. Despite this revelation, she describes her stay with the idiots as happy. This is best articulated just as the group is breaking apart after each member in tur n either fails or refuses to spass in public. Just as they are about to part ways, she gives a heartfelt speech to the remaining members, among whom Stoffer is conspicuously missing. She extols the virtues of each remaining member, explaining how they have helped her through this intense period of crisis in her life. Her confession goes a long way towards redeeming the absurdity and hypocrisy of the group's mission. However, her redemption of the group is not complete, to redeem the group of its sins, she c hooses to sacrifice herself for them. She will return home, to her family in mourning who she has not seen for days, and will spass in front of them all. She takes Susanne along with her as a witness to her actions,
73 and Susanne's reactions to Karen's homec oming serve as a mirror for the audience's own reaction. In this final scene, she reconciles madness, religion, and law into herself, and stands in defiance of bourgeois norms. Her madness is plain to see: it is an externalization of the inner torment she must feel for the loss of her child. It is this which dri ves her to join the group in the first place, and this madness comes ahead of the acted madness which she experiences with the idiots. While it was mad for her to leave, it seems even madder for her to return home in the fashion which she does; as a spasse r. She also contains law, as this final act is driven by Stoffer's all but said commandment: "Thou shalt not spass simply when convenient". She is in fact the only person who obeys this law in the entire film. Even Stoffer sobers up when his uncle comes to visit. Finally, the selfless and even Christ like nature of this final act instills her with a sense of religion. She is truly sacrificing herself to the cause of the idiots. She was so deeply affected by their practice and actions that she completely ove rcomes the risks of spassing amongst her family. She sums up this feeling when she states that she wants to show that some good has come from the movement. Like Christ, her charity is met with disgust and alienation, which is palpable amongst her family me mbers when she first enters the home. Her act of spassing, which is as simple as spitting up a cake she was offered, is met swiftly and viciously with a slap from her husband, after which she and Susanne quickly exit her house. This final scene is visceral ly painful, and does not feel like a victory for the spassers, yet a closer inspection reveals the incredible power behind her decision. The intention of the spassers was never to spass for its own sake. There is a constant sense
74 that what they are actuall y doing is challenging the necessity of the norms set in place by polite bourgeois society. This society prescribes appropriate action for every situation, from how to behave at a restaurant to how to mourn for one's lost son. As Karen spits out her cake, she is truly spitting on this notion of prescribed mourning. No one, not even her family can tell her how to deal with the passing of her lost child, that is for her alone to decide. Her act of spassing at her family's house is her completed statement of t his, which started before she even learned of spassing, when she decided to go with Stoffer rather than to her son's funeral. So, the question becomes, if we can see The Idiots as ending in an ultimate victory for the spassers, can we glean a positive outl ook for the mission of Dogme as a whole? Or in other words, is the mixture of madness, religion, and law in fact a revitalizing generative draught for film? When one attempts to map Karen's model of success onto Dogme 95, some issues arise that suggest tha t the two stories are not quite parallel. To be sure, there are some similarities. Karen's lost child could be compared to von Trier's own feelings of dissatisfaction with his filmic children, and her search for healing through the idiots could be mapped o nto von Trier's own movement towards the creation of Dogme 95 as personal salvation. The Idiots could be compared to Karen spitting up the cake, an utter challenge towards the filmic norms of his time and place. Of course, this analysis is lacking, and the re are a great number of differences between von Trier and Karen. In truth, the most ready character comparison to von Trier in The Idiots is Stoffer, the overbearing, slightly mad ringleader of the whole experiment. Lars von Trier did not come upon Dogme as naturally as Karen; and Dogme is very much
75 like the house that Stoffer created and ruled over. It is simply too bogged down in its own bourgeois roots to make the truly defiant statement that Karen makes. In essence, the problem is that von Trier, in hi s environment, is completely incapable of taking the level of risk that Karen took with Dogme 95 as he is under the protection of the Danish state. While this indeed appears to be a damning statement of Dogme 95, it really is only applicable to the movemen t as it grew in Denmark. The international community which took on Dogme is much more similar to Karen and her natural discovery of the spassers. Despite the damning bourgeois roots of Danish Dogme, proponents of the radical movement still had a shining be acon of hope overseas to point to in defense of this cause. These directors, such as Harmony Korine, did not have the fatherly protection of Denmark, and Dogme was as much a financially liberating idea as it was an artistically freeing one. Like Karen, the American directors actually have the ability to take a true risk, as they are not culturally and financially protected by the state. It is not surprising then that when one talks about what Korine's Dogme film, Julien Donkey Boy has to say about Dogme 95 it is quite different from what The Idiots has revealed. We have already seen how Julien embodies the combination of religion, madness, and law which drives the creative process of Dogme 95. What has not been seen yet is how this combination ends for Jul ien. The end of Julien Donkey Boy is a blur of emotionally rich scenes and events. For the purposes of this analysis, we will only look from the ice skating scene on, and consider this to be the finale of the film. The ice skating scene itself can be inter preted to be a graceful meditation on the practice of Dogme itself. However, it is not consistent and approaches the notion from multiple angles. The scene opens with Julien comically
76 attempting to sell a pair of flip flops with ice skating blades glued on to it to a strictly business young orthodox Jewish boy. This interaction is reminiscent of Dogme's own financial viability. Julien is attempting to sell an inferior, cheaply made product (which probably would not work) to someone who appears to have no suc h time for games. It would not be a stretch to say that the boy, with his all business attitude and brutal critique of Julien's product, represents the Hollywood mindset, which is completely unaccepting of anything that doesn't "work," while the flip flops represent the novel cheapness of a Dogme 95 film. Aside from this financial interaction, Pearl talks with Chrissy, the blind girl of whom Julien is particularly fond. They discuss the psychic nature and effect of our senses, in less grand terms of cou rse. Chrissy states that she used to think she could see everything, until a doctor told her that she could actually see slim to none. Pearl remarks that if she was never told this, she would still think she could see everything. This leads one to wonder, how much of our perception of Dogme films and Hollywood films is driven by the fact that we are told one is better or more professional than the other. Pearl continues this discussion of the senses by stating that sometimes she wishes she was deaf, as she finds the world too loud. In a similar vein, Dogme hears the mainstream filmic aesthetic as too "loud," and wishes to quiet it down a bit so that something may actually be heard and not just "sensed". The scenes of Chrissy and Pearl ice skating are easily some of the most beautiful scenes in the whole film, oscillating between grainy wide shots to relatively high quality close ups of Pearl's face, which is constantly holding a look of star struck wonder. However, this tranquil scene quickly comes crashing down as Pearl falls onto her
77 pregnant belly, causing her to miscarry the child. The switch between the tranquil skating rink to the chaotic Hospital is jarring and leaves the viewer in a state of shock. The horror of this finale is not complete. Julien tak es the body of his incestuously created child and makes a beeline straight back to his house, ignoring everyone along his way, where he curls up into a bed with the stillborn child and covers himself with a blanket. The final shot is of him in the fetal po sition and the child under this blanket, reminding one of a womb. However, rather than containing life, this womb holds nothing but sorrow and death. This ending cannot be reinterpreted in a positive light like the seemingly grim ending of The Idiots Whil e the ending of The Idiots can be seen to show the triumphant overcoming of the sorrow that comes with losing a child, the ending for Julien is just the beginning of this sorrow; and the film ends before the initial desolation has a chance to subside. The question is whether or not this unmitigated bleak ending has anything to say about Dogme. To answer this question, we must look, as we did in The Idiots for a fourth admixture to the combination of madness, religion, and law. For The Idiots this was the concept of the bourgeois. For Julien Donkey Boy there is no question that the fourth ingredient that drives the film is incest. While the film has an actual example of incest, in the case of Julien and Pearl's child, this is not the only place where this theme may be seen. We have also seen a further element of their incestuous relationship when their phone conversation was discussed. It has already been mentioned that Julien has internalized the Christian taboo against incest when he quotes this taboo as law to his
78 blind friends. There is also an element of incest in the previously discussed scene in which the father attempts to get Chris to wear his mother's dress and dance with him. What has not been discussed in depth thus far is the fact that the entir e house may be seen as an incestuous setting. The family seems to spend most of their time in this toxic environment, either alone or with each other. The father constantly projects his own desires and ideals onto those around him, subsuming their own indi viduality into his own. This is seen most strongly with scenes involving Chris and Pearl, such when he forces Chris to sit under a stream of cold water, when he teaches Chris an exercise he used to do as a ski jumper, and when he smashes Pearl's harp, accu sing Pear of being a dilettante. In the real world, it is well known that incest can damage procreation, leading to deformed children and eventually, if the inbreeding is severe enough, children that simply cannot survive. The essential point is that inces t leads to an impotent creative ability, if it is accepted that the house is indeed an incestuous environment. We are able to see this principle play out time and time again throughout the film. Julien's own creative attempt in the form of his poem is stif led quickly and destroyed by his father, who replaces it with a cheap and clichd Hollywood action scene. Pearl is also victim to their father's rage when he forces her to stop playing the harp and almost destroys it. It is not always the father, however, who is responsible for the family's stunted creative ability. Chris's wrestling match, for instance, falls apart under its own weight as the family cannot take it as seriously as he would like. Of course, this list of failed creative acts would be incomple te without the stillbirth of the child at the end of the film. This destroyed creation is unique in that it is the only one mentioned that takes place outside of the home. While the scene may be
79 interpreted as an accident, this is not entirely certain. Lea ding up to Pearl's fall, there is intense foreshadowing that a fall is about to take place. As Pearl ties her shoes, Chrissy remarks, "we wouldn't want you slipping and falling!" Additionally, there are many shots of Pearl weaving precariously on her skate s, in an action which is retroactively reminiscent of someone at the top of a building debating whether to jump or not. While the evidence seems meager, it is enough to at least allow for the possibility that Pearl's fall was intentional. If it was indeed intentional, it would be difficult to think of any motivation except the ending of the child's life. What further supports this potential is the fact that the scene directly before this one is a violent scene in which the father attempts to destroy Pearl's harp and drives Julien to the point of a seizure of self inflicted punishment. The knowledge that this is the life into which her child would be born may have been enough to motivate her to prevent it from being born, thus saving the child from an existen ce literally defined by incest. So the question stands, does incest have anything to do with Dogme? The obvious and safe answer would be to point to the fact that it is a relatively common theme amongst the Dogme corpus. It is even the driving force behind the plot of the celebrated Dogme #1, The Celebration which deals with the revelation of incest within a wealthy Danish family and the struggle for this truth to come to light. However, this answer only deals in the products of Dogme, and not the fabric o f the movement itself. In Julien Donkey Boy the main destructive force of incest is not the same as it is for the real world. What seems to be so destructive about incest has nothing to do with genetics and everything to do with the claustrophobic, self r eflexive nature of such an act. It is the denial of the new in favor of what already is, and destroys creation through its
80 refusal to step outside of itself. This is where incest begins to truly relate to the conditions of Dogme 95. Dogme 95 exists as a st atic entity: a complete and decisive set of rules which are as immutable as stone.
81 Conclusion June of 2002 marked an important milestone in Dogme 95. This was the month that the Dogme secretariat, the body which was established to certify Dogme films, was officially shut down. Additionally, by this moment, all of the original members of the Dogme 95 brethren, Lars von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg, Kristian Levring, and Sren Kragh Jacobsen, had all but abandoned the Dogme 95 ideal, moving on to new projects mostly unrelated to their previously anti bourgeois movement. Early 2003 marked an active time for these filmmakers, although an arguably unproductive one. Both Vinterberg and Jacobsen released films, It's All About Love and Skagerrak respectively, with both receiving abysmally low box office numbers and all but vocalized groans of embarrassment from the critics. Levring's The Intended, released later that year, performed marginally better than the previous two, but not by much. Lars von Trier, on the oth er hand, continued to prove his unpredictable abilities by creating the film Dogville (2003), which received a standing ovation at Cannes, yet followed a familiar path for von Trier when, like his pre Dogme films, Dogville was snubbed during the awards cer emony, receiving not a single award despite the consensus amongst the audience. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the Danish public did not respond as well as the Cannes audience did to his film, which was populated by big name non Danish actors and actresses such as Dogme veteran Chloe Sevigney, Nicole Kidman, and Paul Bettany. Indeed, this would mark a definite trend for von Trier, who would continue to alienate his Danish home as he moved more and more towards the idea of an "international" director, completely unfettered by any nationalistic ties. His two largest
82 (and most recent) films to date, Antichrist (2009) and Melancholia (2012), are about as far from Denmark as one can get, focusing instead on American settings with English and the primary language. Int erestingly enough, this movement away from his home of Denmark has done wonders for his standing at Cannes, with Antichrist actress Charlotte Gainsbourg winning the festivals best actress award; the first Cannes victory to be associated with a von Trier fi lm. Kirsten Dunst would go on to win this same award for Melancholia As von Trier moved more and more away from his identity as a Danish director, he also moved away from the ideals he set forth for Dogme 95. While Dogville did enjoy some of the stripped down aesthetic of Dogme with a majority of the film taking place on extremely minimal sets on a soundstage, the movie breaks nearly all of Dogme's rules, especially by geographically and temporally alienating the audience, through the use of minimal sets t o convey far away locations. If Dogville paid a passing resemblance to Dogme through its austere minimalism, this connection was completely wiped out by Antichrist and Melancholia Both of these most recent films make extensive use of the very cosmetics th at von Trier fervently attacks in the Dogme manifesto. They both have loads of superficial action, as well as camera work that was clearly performed with the aid of supports. Perhaps most alarming for a Dogme purist (if such a person exists) is the fact th at von Trier's aesthetic thumbprint is ubiquitously present on these films. The fact that there is an auteur at work behind each meticulous mise en scne and camera movement is exceedingly obvious. There are no shaky cameras here! (at least not without pur pose)
83 The total abandonment of Dogme 95 by its creators and supporters leads to some tough questions. Was Dogme 95 intended to be a permanent movement into the future with no expiration date, or did von Trier and the rest realize that a film movement which restricts itself to such a degree is naturally not sustainable? This question would be difficult to answer, as it has to do with the internal workings of von Trier and co.'s minds. Perhaps a better approach to this concept would be to look at Dogme as it stands, without its human component, and ask whether or not Dogme 95 and the Vow of Chastity were film production paradigms which could have been sustainable, but were unnaturally ended. This question has much to do with how much we see Dogme 95 and the Vo w of Chastity as capable of supporting a diversity of film, and whether or not we have seen a diversity of film sprout from it. In other words, was Dogme, at its time of death, still producing a diverse selection of films which stood up on their own? The a nswer to this question depends on where you locate the value of a film. From a critical standpoint, Dogme still had much potential even when the brotherhood split off to work on other projects. During the "official" years of Dogme, a total of thirty three films became Dogme certified, and even up to the very end of this run films were received accolades. The last of these films to receive major attention was a film titled Open Hearts (2002), directed by Susanne Bier. When the film won the International Crit ic's Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, the reason given was for the fact that it proves that dogma has come of age and matured into a potent cinematic language that skillfully captures the freeing of real emotions that extreme trauma create s within the lives of the characters in her film. (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0315543/awards)
84 This special accolade would suggest on the surface that Dogme was far from death, but rather just hitting its stride! Yet this accolade also hints at a deeper p roblem emerging within the Dogme movement. No, the Dogme movement was not discontinued due to a flagging creative potency of the community. I propose an entirely different reason why the Dogme movement came to a halt. This proposed reason can be found by asking a vital question about the Dogme movement: what effect did it have on mainstream cinema? This question is a natural one to ask of the completed and closed Dogme movement, prompted by the fierce rhetoric against mainstream cinema found in the Dogme M anifesto. Whether or not the Dogme 95 originators intended to or not, they did indeed have an impact on mainstream cinema. Perhaps the most obvious and played out example of this is the Blair Witch Project (1999), which came a year after the first Dogme f ilm burst onto the scene, showing what a low budget foreign film could do. Despite the intense overuse of this example in nearly every source which discusses Dogme 95, an examination of this film is fruitful. By looking at this film, how Dogme 95 affected Hollywood may be seen clearly. The Blair Witch Project bears so much of a resemblance to a Dogme film that it could easily be mistaken for one by the unscrupulous eye. There are a few things which reveal that it is most certainly not a Dogme film, the grea test trait being the many deaths which occur through the film, which would certainly count as superficial action. Additionally, it is most certainly a genre film, falling squarely into the category of "horror."
85 Aside from these small blemishes, this lives and breathes much like a Dogme film. The only recording equipment used are small handheld cameras which the actors themselves manipulate, and nearly all of the dialogue is improvised. These elements give the film a nearly identical visual aesthetic with a Dogme 95 film. There is the grainy camera quality with shaky handling which has become the trademark of Dogme 95. Also like Dogme film, the Blair Witch Project owes much of its success to the spontaneous and apparently authentic acting style. However, the resemblance is merely superficial. If anything has been shown during this examination of Dogme 95, it is that the core of Dogme is not the technical details of how it was made or what it looks like, but rather the ideas that drive it to look like the way it does and obey the rules that it obeys. From this perspective, the Blair Witch Project is drastically different from a Dogme film. Despite the film's small production budget, a huge sum of money, 25 million to be exact, was spent on the marketing of the film (Stanley). This advertisement had less to do with how the film was made and focused more in sensationalizing the mystery surrounding whether the film was an authentic documentary or not. This sensationalization clearly reveals this film to be more ide ologically associated with the mainstream of Hollywood than with the chastity of Dogme 95. This examination has revealed something about the nature of Hollywood. It has the ability to take any idea, even if it is necessarily ideologically opposed to Holly wood, and find a way to absorb it into the corpus of mainstream cinema. This gives us a potential reason for why Lars von Trier and the others abandoned the Dogme 95 movement. Such a strong idealistic stand, if it is successful, is bound to be absorbed int o
86 the mainstream of film, and become a simple aesthetic facade with no force. By putting their films into uniform, as von Trier says they must do in the Manifesto, they are also branding their films, and in this sense necessarily commodifying them. With th e international success and growing recognition of Dogme, the only way to stop this inevitability would be to cut the movement off before it crosses that threshold. The positive legacy of Dogme is that it inspired hundreds of unheard of filmmakers to take up the digital camera and go out a make a film, regardless of their anonymity. As long as Dogme exists as a historical fact, this will remain to be the case. The rules will serve as a model for how to make a film on next to no budget and the films themsel ves will serve as the examples of what may happen when one takes the risk and follows these rules.
87 Appendix 1: The Dogme Manifesto and VOW OF CHASTITY DOGMA 95 DOGMA 95 is a collection of film directors founded in Copenhagen in spring 1995. DOGMA 95 has the expressed goal of countering "certain tendencies" in the cinema today. DOGMA 95 is a rescue act ion! 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 bourg eois perception of art. The auteur concept was bourgeois romanticism from the very start and thereby false! To DOGMA 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 medium 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 un iform, because the individual film will be decadent by definition! DOGMA 95 counters the individual film by the principle of presenting an indisputable set of rules known as THE VOW OF CHASTITY. In 1960 enough was enough! The movie had been cosmeticized t o death, they said; yet since then the use of cosmetics has exploded. The "supreme" task of the decadent film makers is to fool the audience. Is that what we are so proud of? Is that what the "100 years" have brought us? Illusions via which emotions can be communicated? By the individual artist's free choice of trickery? Predictability (dramaturgy) has become the golden calf around which we dance. Having the characters' inner lives justify the plot is too complicated, and not "high art". As never before, t he superficial action and the superficial movie are receiving all the praise. The result is barren. An illusion of pathos and an illusion of love. To DOGMA 95 the movie is not illusion!
88 Today a technological storm is raging of which the result is the eleva tion of cosmetics to God. By using new technology anyone at any time can wash the last grains of truth away in the deadly embrace of sensation. The illusions are everything the movie can hide behind. DOGMA 95 counters the film of illusion by the presentati on of an indisputable set of rules know as THE VOW OF CHASTITY. THE VOW OF CHASTITY I swear to submit to the following set of rules drawn up and confirmed by DOGMA 95: 1. Shooting must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in (if a particu lar 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 b e hand held. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted. 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. Optica l 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 accep table. 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 importan t 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 DOGMA 95 Lars von Trier Thomas Vinterber g
89 Work Cited Astruc, Alexander. "The Birth of a New Avant Garde: La Camera Stylo." March 30 1948. < https://soma.sbcc.edu/Users/DaVega/FILMST_113/FILMST_113_0ld/GENER ALTHEORY/CameraStylo_Astruc _1928.pdf > Web. Breathless Dir. Jean Luc Godard. Les Films Impria. 1960. Film. The Celebration. Dir. Thomas Vinterberg. Nimbus Films. 1998. Film. Ebert, Roger. "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly." January 2 1968. < http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the good the bad and the ugly 1968 > Web. Gaut, Berys. "Naked Film: Dogme and its Limits." Hjort and Mackenzie 89 101. Hart, Hugh. "Site Shines Light on Star Trek Sound Designers." December 29th 2009. < http://www.wired.com/underwire/2009/12/site shines light on star trek sound designers/ > Web. Hjort, Mette, and Scott Mackenzie, eds. Purity and Provocation. London: Br itish Film Institute, 2003. Print. The Idiots Dir. Lars von Trier. Zentropa Films. 1998. Film. Julien Donkey Boy. Dir. Harmony Korine. 391 Productions.1999. Film. The King is Alive Dir. Kristian Levring. Zentropa Films. 2000. Film. Korine, Harmony. "Julien Donkey Boy Confession." 1999. < http://www.harmon y korine.com/paper/index/i_julien.html > Web. La Jete. Dir. Chris Marker. Argos Films. 1962. Film. Lewis, John. Hollywood v. Hardcore: How the Struggle Over Censorship Created the Modern Film Industry. New York: NYU Press, 2000. Print. Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster, 1998. Web.
90 Schepelern, Peter. "Film according to Dogme: Restrictions, Obstructions, and Liberation." < http://www.zentropa.dk > Web. Schepelern, Peter. "Kill Your Darlings: Lars von Trier and the Origin of Dogma 95." Hjort and Mackenzie 58 70. Stanley, T.L. "High Tech Throwback marketing of Blair Witch Project." Brandweek 1999. Stevenson, Jack. Dogme Uncut. Santa Monica: Santa Monica Press, 2003. Print.