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Dogme 95 – a Quick Diary Entry ..

With no knowledge of Danish cinema before this week I was looking forward to seeing Festen and other bits of Dogme filmmaking. I had seen scandinavian stuff before and enjoyed it very much, and imagined that it may not be too dissimilar from German filmmaking, being geographically quite close, but how wrong could I be? Dogme is pretty much unlike anything I’ve ever seen before in terms of content, style and rhetoric. I’m unsure as to whether I’ve decided whether or not this is a good thing.

 With no knowledge of Danish cinema before this week I was looking forward to seeing Festen and other bits of Dogme filmmaking.  I had seen scandinavian stuff before and enjoyed it very much, and imagined that it may not be too dissimilar from German filmmaking, being geographically quite close, but how wrong could I be?  Dogme is pretty much unlike anything I’ve ever seen before in terms of content, style and rhetoric.  I’m unsure as to whether I’ve decided whether or not this is a good thing.

 To start off I will vent my cynicism.  The whole idea and ideals of Dogme 95 seems to me like the creation of a scene in any of the arts.  Danish cinema, from what I gather, was fledgling in the late eighties and early nineties for sure and a group of filmmakers with tiny budgets (but big ideas) wanted worldwide attention on their movies or works of art.  Monet and the Impressionists didn’t have much in the way of attention and acclaim (although acclaim is often something that comes after the initial intention, and perhaps shock value) untill they clubbed together and did their thing in a showcase outisde of the French art schools and academic, or institutionalised world of art.  A conscious fight against perhaps.  As with the Dogme filmmakers who were against Hollywood.  We were told in the seminar that Lynsey Anderson had conjectured something about the British New Wave in the sixties that disparate filmmakers were perhaps grouped together to form something that was greater that the sum of its parts.  And those who conformed to this idea would get further recognition themselves by association.  In Dogme’s case this is extremely pertinent as the directors who drew up the 10 commandments of dogme moved on from the rules as fast as they drew them up, they then became a platform by which low-budget film makers forced to work within the restraints of “no money” could autheticate their film with a certificate at the beginning that would instantly gain a wider audience.

The film of the week “festen” was a great experiment in polarisation of a room.  The shrieks and giggles were unavoidable, provocative it definitely is, unsure about thought provoking though, a reaction though is i’m sure what the director is after.  Apologies for being graphic myself, but towards the end i needed the toilet quite badly but didn’t want to leave for fear of missing yet another plot altering revelation.  There were elements of genre and already sequences and moments in the film that contradicted the points of dogme, there was hints at horror, claustrophobic thrillers, a hint of psychological thriller, black comedy and certainly melancholy family drama.  Camera work whilst seemingly “budget” was occassionally clearly not handheld and artistically placed, and what exactly is optical work?  Although it must be noted that the use of natural light at times is quite superb, particularly with the silhouettes.  Reminded me of the “Do bears shit in the woods?” sequence from The League of Gentlemen.  I’m 100% sure the four members of the League would have been aware of the dogme films.

 The Sight & Sound review concludes with the point that the almost home movie aspect of the films blurs the documentary film boundaries, however I don’t feel like i’m watching a documentary, maybe being de-sensitised to the notion of shakey cam and post the whole Blair Witch saga there seems to be no element of “truth” in shakey cameras any more, its an easy tool to manipulate people into engaging believability in the story.  The whole thing to me felt like some bad theatre actors playing a grotesque parlour game, grotesque in terms of who can be the most disgusting, personally it would probably be fun to go to a manor house and see who can say/do the most offensive thing possible.  It’s also something that seems to have been adopted by Sacha Baron Cohen inadvertently perhaps with the characters of Borat and Bruno within their respective films.  Although their seems to be no agenda or sociological angle in Festen, or indeed the Idiots, just attention seeking.  (to the contemporary reviewer the film may have seemed fresh).

 The seminar this week was very good in my honest and humble opinion, the film and the whole dogme concept seemed to have provoked most from their proverbial shell.  So, maybe you could say that, Von Tryer and Vinterberg’s ideas have worked, even 15 years on.  Get people talking and reacting to their films.  And then move on the making films with Willem Dafoe, but stay in your own country so as to subvert Hollywood.  Will seems to enjoy playing devils advocate and engage people in discussion.  Polly seems to be quite cold towards most films and their subjects, whilst claiming to want heart and soul and have a heart then cites the Rambo films as “great”.  Tor (Victoria) had some great ideas and justifications of why she believed the dogme filmmakers were pretentious, and picked apart almost all of the 10 commandments.  Miranda seemed disturbed particularly by the Idiots.  Rob and Tom also contributed although were occassionally drowned out by the more vocal members of the group.  Although it seemed a more active group session.  Thank Yahweh!  The film shown in the seminar though, A Love Story (made me think of Michael Moore’s latest offering by the way it is titled) seemed like a cheap tv medical drama and not alot to do with the actual rules of dogme but the certificate tagged on the beginning to be part of something.  This is very much how it seemed.

 All in all, dogme worked for Von Trier and the like, a boost to their egos, recoginition for their low-budget films and a worldwide audience.  Although the disparate disjointed bunch have followed, i hesitate to call them badwagon hoppers, leave a lot to be desired.  Back to my link to other art.  Damon Albarn, whilst creating his own “BritPop” scene recognised Kurt Cobain and Nirvana as great but what followed in their wake was horrible American dirge.  EM Forster wrote in Howards End that it is ok to hate Wagner, as while Wagner is great, the trite pompous orchestral music that following citing him as an influence was awful.  And another painting one for good measure, Picasso and the cubists, are they responsible for the horrible pretentious paint splatters that are considered modern today?  ok now, Goldsmiths Arts College, Tracy Emin and Damien Hirst, what is that all about?!?!  But hey Cool Britannia, it was fashion of the time, a scene was created and friends in the world of criticism and those with the power of the printing press were able to elevate their status … ok, so we started out and cynical and we remain so at the end, but it has to be said, if you can successfully manage to pull of the act of directing the zeitgeist with your own groups views/work then well done, its no mean feat…

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1 Comment
  1. Posted February 26, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    Festen es lunacia …

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