Lars von Trier Is Sorry for 'Dogville,' But Should He Be?

The Atlantic Wire
 Lars von Trier Is Sorry for 'Dogville,' But Should He Be?
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Lars von Trier Is Sorry for 'Dogville,' But Should He Be?

Danish director Lars von Trier has a habit of putting his foot in his mouth in the most offensive way possible, most recently at this year's Cannes film festival when he said he identified with Hitler. He seemed genuinely unnerved this weekend, though, when a Danish journalist told him that his 2003 film Dogville was one of the favorite movies of suspected Norway shooter Anders Behring Breivik.

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Vulture notes that von Trier told reporter Nils Thoren of the Danish newspaper Politiken that he "[felt] badly about thinking that Dogville, which in my eyes is one of my most successful films, should have been a kind of script for Breivik." We tried Google Translating the entire article, though, and noticed that von Trier seems to distance himself from the picture even more than that. When the question comes up about whether he regrets for having made it, von Trier responds "[I]f it means that it had this effect, then I am sorry I have made it."

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Hollywood Elsewhere's Jeffrey Wells, for one, isn't entirely convinced that he should be. While noting that Dogville "ends with Nicole Kidman's Grace, who's been exploited and sexually abused by Dogville's citizenry, ordering the pistols who work for her gangster dad (James Caan) to mow them all down with machine-gun fire," Wells takes the position that von Trier is "no more responsible for Breivik's carnage than Catcher in the Rye author J.D. Salinger was responsible for Mark David Chapman's 1980 killing of John Lennon."

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He may have a point. Thoren points out that Dogville was only one of the movies listed as favorites by Breivik on his since-closed Facebook page, along with the equally violent (though admittedly less political) sword-and-sandal epics Gladiator and 300. From what we can see, nobody's asked directors Ridley Scott and Zack Snyder whether they'd still make those films knowing they somehow may have contributed to Breivik's chilling self-mythology. If you want to go down the slippery slope of blaming movies for what happened in Norway, it should be noted that the Dogville scene where Grace makes her decision about what she has to do to protect "the other towns" seems philosophically similar to Russell Crowe's speech to his troops before the big early battle in Gladiator.

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