Dogville is Our Town. Time has passed. Our Town looks a bit shabby these days. The set is still sparse. We’re more realistic. Maybe we were always more realistic.
Our Town is covered in Blue Velvet nowadays. There are dirty little secrets inside. On the surface, we are nice. We will help a Jew, even an immigrant, if they are legal and they don’t cost us much. They did no harm. They weren’t criminals. We knew that. And so, we let them stay with us. We hid them from the authorities. All we asked was a little something in return. A little labor. They were glad to apply themselves, if we would save them and hide them and shelter them. After all, it wasn’t much work and in the final analysis, work is a fair exchange for the wages of fear.
Grace (Nicole Kidman) gets wages; well not much, but Dogville’s citizens build her a house to live in. One couldn’t ask for much more. And Grace is grateful and obedient to a fault. One feels free of the demands of the outside world when one is working. The people who run Dogville don’t really need her labour or her skills. After all, they can do their work themselves. They have been doing it since before Grace arrived.
Hidden Grace is discovered by the idealist of the town. He is the writer. He is the dreamer. He is pure. He is trying to shed light on goodness. He loves the poor, the unwashed, the hard working citizens of Dogville. God provides for those who take care of themselves. They are His obedient servants and He loves them. Not the writer. He is not God. He is also one of God’s obedient servants. I mean, God loves the citizens of Dogville–even if they resemble “frogs with dirty little lips”. They are good and generous and they help Grace.
They have Grace. Grace is theirs to kill or love. Grace is their servant..well, of sorts. They love her. Well, at least, they like her a lot. They let Grace do some of their lighter chores. Grace is obedient. Grace does her chores well. The town seems pleased and begins to brighten as time goes on. From a winter of depression-era discontent, the town passes into a spring, then a summer of cautious, good humour.
And Grace? She’s grateful.
But, the authorities press their case for finding Grace. The town’s members begin to feel uneasy. They are, after all, law abiding citizens and they wouldn’t want to do anything wrong. But they are also just and as just citizens, Dogville comes to terms with ignoring the policeman’s public pleas to pass on any information on the missing Grace to the proper public authorities, by exacting greater toil from their servant. Justice, after all, has to be measured and meted out fairly and crime is in the air. Certainly the citizens of Dogville are not guilty of the crime and Grace is the focus of the missing person’s posters and so crime must be followed by punishment. Everyone knows that. Even a child, like the one who pleads with Grace to spank him, knows that. The child has behaved badly and knows that for this crime, he must be punished. Grace reluctantly complies and spanks the child. Thus justice is meted out and the delicate, balance of power between dominance and submission is maintained.
Submission is good. Any good ideologist will tell you that. The Good Idea should dominate the human being. Tom Edison (Paul Bettany ) will tell you that as he wanders the streets of Dogville or at the meetings he organizes or in the books he plans to write. And Grace is submissive. As pressure and the promise of reward from the authorities grow, the balance of power between Dogville and Grace has to be adjusted.
It is winter. Grace has been obedient to every man in town. Power must be serviced. Dogville’s bitches don’t like her much for that and the temptation to use their knowledge to turn her out of their Eden grows with every day and night which passes, until finally the deed is agreed to.
But not before Herr Edison declares his undying love and Grace consents to submit to him in more ideal circumstances. For now, the reality is her chains, complete with a cow bell around her neck for she has had the temerity to attempt an escape. Sure, Tom tried to help by stealing money from his father. Fortunately for Dogville’s citizens, there is a Judas around and it is during and after his betraying kisses that she is raped, more or less at will. Sex will not come to the pure of heart though and Tom decides that Grace must go. It’s either her or his ideals.
Snow falls. Moonlight glows. The authorities arrive. Dogville’s citizens have been obedient. Theirs is the power and the glory forever. Our Men….led by the father of Grace give them their just desserts. Even the one-time wage-slave Grace, relishes her new found political power as it comes out the barrel of gun and into her Idealist Lover’s skull.
“Take a day and walk around. Watch the Nazis run your town. Then, go home and check yourselves. You think we’re talking about someone else. But, you’re plastic people………oh baby, now you’re such a drag.” lyric from Frank Zappa’s album “We’re Only in it for the Money”.