You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Dogville Confessions

"A hyper-intelligent child who is slightly disturbed, playing with dolls in a dollhouse, cutting their heads off with nail clippers." That's how actor Stellan Skarsgard describes his frequent director, Lars Von Trier, in one of many memorable scenes from "Dogville Confessions," a companion documentary to von Trier's recent Cannes competitor.

With: Nicole Kidman, Lars von Trier, Stellan Skarsgard, Ben Gazzara, Lauren Bacall, Paul Bettany, James Caan

“A hyper-intelligent child who is slightly disturbed, playing with dolls in a dollhouse, cutting their heads off with nail clippers.” That’s how actor Stellan Skarsgard describes his frequent director, Lars Von Trier, in one of many memorable scenes from “Dogville Confessions,” a companion documentary to von Trier’s recent Cannes competitor, compiled from candid homevideo footage recorded during the 2-month production of “Dogville” in 2002. Following in the tradition of such other on-the-set docus as “Burden of Dreams” and “Hearts of Darkness,” pic is arguably less interested in the making of von Trier’s film than in its frequent near-unmaking, as disgruntled actors and an oft-befuddled von Trier try to get a fix on the movie’s vanguard style. Like those earlier docus, “Dogville Confessions” is inextricably connected to “Dogville” itself, unlikely to generate much exposure beyond inclusion on an eventual “Dogville” DVD, or in some other companion showing with the film.

Opening with overhead shots of von Trier’s enormous Copenhagen “Dogville” soundstage, docu’s early sections deal with the arrival of the (mostly American) actors on location and the lengthy rehearsal process needed to work out the production’s various kinks.

Given that the actors are working on a chalk-outlined set with only a few props and pieces of sets for reference, there’s enormous time given to things that most film companies never have to worry about, like where exactly all the imaginary doors and windows are (so that the actors don’t walk right through them).

Once production begins, there’s humorous footage of von Trier (who also served as “Dogville’s” cinematographer and camera operator) suited up in full steadicam regalia, nicknamed “Robodirector” by the crew.

The “Confessions” part of docu’s title refers to a “confessional booth,” akin to the ones popularized by MTV’s “The Real World” series — a small room installed by docu’s director, Sami Saif, in a corner of the “Dogville” soundstage, where cast and crew come to “privately” express their feelings about the progress of the production. These confessional segments have been intercut with the more traditional behind-the-scenes footage, and there aren’t nearly enough of them. An exhausted Nicole Kidman, a bitter Paul Bettany and, particularly, a delightfully acerbic Lauren Bacall are so refreshingly unguarded in these moments that you wish the entire film had been constructed only of them.

But it is von Trier himself whose shadow looms largest over “Dogville Confessions,” inviting Saif along for endless rides in his infamous camper van (yes, the one von Trier regularly uses to make the trip from Copenhagen to Cannes). He waxes solipsistically about the rigors of the filmmaking process and a variety of paranoid fantasies (among them: the belief that the cast of his movie is conspiring against him). And, as with all things Lars, there is the suggestion that everything we are seeing in Saif’s film could be an elaborate put-on, staged by von Trier as a way of maintaining the swirl of melodrama he seems to need in his life as much as in his films.

In keeping with the aesthetics of the film it’s about, “Dogville Confessions” has been lensed in washed-out colors in widescreen digital video and then transferred to 35mm film.

Dogville Confessions


Production: (International sales: Trust Film Sales, Copenhagen.) Produced by Carsten Holst. Executive producers, Peter Aalbaek, Vibeke Windelov. Co-producers, Gerald Morin, Marc-Henri Wanjberg. Directed by Sami Saif.

Crew: Camera (color, digital-video-to-35mm; widescreen), Saif; editor, Camilla Schyberg. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 23, 2003. Running time: 55 MIN.

With: With: Nicole Kidman, Lars von Trier, Stellan Skarsgard, Ben Gazzara, Lauren Bacall, Paul Bettany, James Caan

More Film

  • Murder Mystery

    Netflix Reveals Record-Breaking Stats for Sandler-Aniston 'Murder Mystery' Flick

    “Murder Mystery,” the latest Adam Sandler film to debut on Netflix, broke viewing records on the streaming service, the company revealed Tuesday. The film, which is co-headlined by Jennifer Aniston, was seen by close to 30.9 million households in its first 3 days, according to a tweet sent out Tuesday afternoon. 🚨ADAM SANDLER AND JENNIFER [...]

  • Agents Accuse Writers Guild of Refusing

    Writers Guild 'Plans to Respond' to Agents' Proposal as Frustration Mounts

    In a sign of increasing frustration, Hollywood agents have accused the Writers Guild of America of foot-dragging in the bitter two-month dispute. “It has become clear as more days pass that the Guild is not interested in making a deal,” said the negotiating committee for the agents in statement issued Tuesday. “Over the past year, [...]

  • Jermaine Fowler arrives at the 69th

    Jermaine Fowler to Co-Star With Eddie Murphy in 'Coming 2 America' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jermaine Fowler is set to play one of the leads opposite Eddie Murphy in Paramount’s sequel “Coming 2 America,” sources tell Variety. “Hustle & Flow” helmer Craig Brewer is on board to direct the pic with the studio planning an August 7, 2020 release. Plot details of “Coming 2 America” are unknown, as are the [...]

  • Henry Golding attends the Fragrance Foundation

    Henry Golding Starts Long House Shingle With 'Inheritance,' 'Harrington's Greatest Hits'

    “Crazy Rich Asians” star Henry Golding has started Long House Productions in partnership with China’s Starlight Cultural Entertainment Group with two features in the works. Golding’s first feature under the Long House banner is action adventure “The Inheritance,” based on an original story idea by Alistair Hudson and Golding. Hudson is writing the script for [...]

  • Max Landis Entertainment Weekly party, Comic-Con

    Max Landis Accused of Rape, Assault and Psychological Abuse

    Screenwriter Max Landis is facing allegations of sexual abuse and psychological manipulation from eight women who told their stories to the Daily Beast. Two of the women spoke on the record, and another five were identified by pseudonyms. An eighth women confirmed that she filed a police complaint against Landis in 2008, in which she [...]

  • Michael Fassbender'X-Men: Dark Phoenix' film premiere,

    Michael Fassbender to Produce, Star in Lionsgate Spy Thriller 'Malko'

    Michael Fassbender will produce and star in the Lionsgate spy thriller “Malko,” based on Gerard de Villiers’ S.A.S. series, with the studio planning to launch a franchise with the project. Eric Warren Singer, who was nominated for an Academy Award for best original screenplay for “American Hustle,” will write the screenplay. Joe Drake, chairman of [...]

  • American Film Institute Hires Susan Ruskin

    Susan Ruskin Appointed AFI Conservatory Dean

    The American Film Institute has named producer and educator Susan Ruskin as dean of the AFI Conservatory, where she will lead AFI’s graduate film-training program. Ruskin, who will also carry the title of executive VP, will report directly to Bob Gazzale, AFI President and CEO, the organization announced Tuesday. She replaces producer Richard Gladstein, who left [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content