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« Chrisendom and Jesus Camp | Main | Film Review - "Dogville" »

September 18, 2007


Lance Davis

Wow, what an interesting mix of podcasts. Both seem to end with the realization of the injustice in our backyards that we somehow justifiably go to great lengths to ignore due to our limitted ability to help.

I love Ben McEachen's insight into the role of the Dark stage with white outlines and invisible walls. He makes it clear that the town reflects people who claim to act with goodness despite their shortcomings yet in the end do not practice what they preach.

As an American, it's interesting for me to hear how people immediately connect the film to America the country that 'thinks they're so good but they do such bad things.' As if no other country has given the facade of doing good when they actually knowingly or unwittingly commit atrocious ills.

Ills so bad that, like in the film's irony, only the evil that "grace" initially flees is able to return and offer her the only hope for redemption (despite it's bloody revengeful nature).

Although Dogville has been tied to a blatant questioning of America's response to 9/11 it's sadly not a new critique on evil America by any means.

The raw photographs at the end of the film, which Ben McEachen mentions, reflect those people who are hurting, poor, and somehow ignored right amongst American society. However, in the middle of this photo slide show, in stark contrast, is a single picture of a well dressed president Nixon. Hmmmm? What's the point of a photo of Nixon? I believe this most likely is associated to a chain of very real events which all too uncomfortably match the grim reality which Lars Von Trier's fictional film portrays.

After losing the war and hundreds of thousands of our soldiers were slaughtered year after year in the all "Noble" cause of releasing the chains of an oppressed people in Vietnam, Part of Nixon's clean-up and get the POW's out of Vietnam solution was to Bomb the living $%!@ out of every military target or potential target accross the country side which meant innocent families and small children where killed or later died from burns in their parents' arms.

In an odd way this reflects Grace's frustration and eventual justifcation for gunning down the town's people. Like Nixon's bomb raids it reflects Grace's attitude or justification for revenge, "I came over here and "helped", all I got in return was loss and more loss at the price of endless abuse (or the lives of countless soldiers in Vietnam) so you all can get stuffed."

Nixon might somewhat resemble the Character of Grace's father who, sitting in the back of his 355 series cadilac seemingly far removed from the reality of the injustice he governs, comes to pick up his daughter only to find her in chains (like the POW's or "Prisoners of War" in Vietnam).So in a response similar to her Father, Nixon launches the bombing "operation Linebacker II" Dec. 18, 1972 supposedly to allow leverage to get his POW's out of Vietnam and "safe" with Him. To watch an interview with the men who were "pulling the trigger" to release the bombs during those raids is strikingly like looking into Grace's face as she reluctantly agrees to "pulling the trigger" somehow knowing to do so is stopping evil with evil.

The frustration of this seemingly unending cycle of humanity's evil nature reminds me of Nicholas Cage's chilling line at the end of the film "Lord of War":

"It's been said that, 'Evil prevails when good men do nothing,' but the line should simply say, 'evil prevails.'"

Veronica Sywak made an interesting statement about human trafficing in the same vein of thinking, "No matter what we do, it will never be eradicated and it will always be there." I guess the only hope is in the only redeemer who can reverse the cycle of evil.

But we can't just wait for Jesus to come back lest we act as blind and weak as the people of Dogville. The opposite extreme is the activists who KNOW that since it IS physically possible to completely eradicate something:(Which it logically is possible by the way ex. everyone could treat their neighbor like they want to be treated) So they think, let's die trying to make it come to pass.

If we're aware of our human condition what CAN we do to reverse its effects as much as possible? Give to Compassion Int? Spend Billions of dollars and lives chasing a really really bad evil terrorist?

How many cringed when they heard Tom's response to Grace's obvious cries for help: "Wow, can i use that in my writing? That's very interesting." But isn't that exactly what we do? We go to seminars for how to reach the homeless people living right next to us in Sydney (and even in a few American cities wink,wink). Or we hit the power-window button to inform the hungry lady standing on the street with a cardboard sign and say, "Ya know, money isn't your answer." and then drive away slurping our boost-juice. Yes it IS her answer! Just because we can't end human depravity through human effort doesn't mean we can't arise awareness and draw attention to the distant help-cries we successfully manage not to hear.

I guess Ben's challenge at the end of the podcast must be addressed: "We can all be like the people in Dogville and it's how you respond to that realization that matters most."

Angie Bulic

After watching dogville and listening to these reviews, i feel like i've lived a pretty sheltered life esp in regards to the realities of human trafficing. I appreciated Lance's comment on how we as Christians approach people who are involved in it.

I think that perhaps one of the roles these films play in contemporary society is to confront the realities of such depraved behaviour - stirring up emotions in the audience to serve as a motivation to change these horrific ways in which humans treat each other.

Kristina Fuglesten

wow, Lance that was good thoughts!

I am thinking about Tom, toward the end of the film. When he saw the injustice commited against Grace. He was the philosopher/ moral guard of the town. He had opinions on right and wrong and what needed to be done to make Dogville a better place. I do not know if he started up with good intentions, I liked him in the beginning kind of defended him a bit, and in the end I hated him.
I'm thinking about the saying: with knowledge comes responsibility. . I expected more from him.. I think that Christians can be like Tom sometimes, we believe in a loving God that, we can determined right form wrong, we look at the society and see injust everywhere.
Christine Cane told a sory once about a a church in Germany under the 2. world war. The church was located close to the train rails, and during the sunday service train will pass filled up with Jews who where on their way to the consentration camps. The church would hear the cry of these oppressed people and it desterbed them. So they decided that when they heared the bells from the train, they would sing a bit lounder, so that they would not hear the cry from the convicts.
I am afraid that this still happens today, we see something, we do not like it, but we do not know what to do abput it, so we turn our back to the problem.
Dogville should stir us up to take responsibility for our society.
ANd be God's hand and feet, because that is our calling right?

Ribekka  Byberg

I loved how there were no walls in Dogville. People were aware of what was happening but no one was willing to do anything to help. I think that reflects how we all live, not only Christians but people in general. We see suffering and injustice around us and we just go on as normal. It makes me think about the good Samaritan. We all like to think that we would act like him, but many times we don’t.
Tom used her life for his story. It just hit me that just by watching the movie, critiquing just that in my head, I am doing just the same. I am watching the movie, again becoming aware of injustice around me. And nothing in me changes. I go on as normal… scary…
It challenges my thinking, but do I allow myself to live a life that is more about others? Or am I like Dogville?

Jacqueline Worcester

Hopefully such films will make us aware of what is happening around us, and broaden our views by making an "out there concept" become personal to us, through the medium of film.
But like Kate said in the podcast, "sometimes we are blissfully ignorant."

An example of this is when a friend told me of a situation that happened to her. She was going to the Rape Incest Survivors Centre (which was very embarassing to tell the taxi driver where she wanted to go.) And while in conversation to the taxi driver, she pointed out that people don't really want to stop child abuse enough to do anythig about it. And the taxi driver said "yes, I would stop a fight in the street, but I would not tell on a next door neighbour as he might find out, and come and hit your car or something."

So to the taxi driver a child's life was worth less than a dent in the car.

Which stands to prove my point that some times we can be made aware of things, and say "oh gee that's awful!" but when it comes down to our actions, they often tell another story.

So I think these movies have a definite place in our society by showing us the moral decay, and personalizing it for us. But, I believe that simply showing a problem is just the beginning, and it is up to us to process how we will modify our behaviour to match our shock, which is generated through such movies.

I have to ask myself, "What am I going to do about the trafficing in Australia? What is my response to social injustice? Do I ignore it like the people in Dogville and the taxi driver or do I allow Compassion to MOVE me into action?

Saying this, I realize that I cannot save the world from all it injustices, and be on the board of every Save the....... committe. But, I can make a difference in the lives of people that I am currently privileged to share this life with, and sometimes others across the other side of the world whom I have never met for example. Sponsoring a disenfranchised child or writing a letter of encouragement to a prisioner.

These films have a great role in awareness for the community as they make us think about how life is, and how it should be. But it is what we do with that awareness that really counts!

Todd Janus

I think that films like these are important in today's society because they show us the human condition in a format that is relevant. We can read the bible and see Christ talking to outcasts, or sharing a meal with the tax collectors and sinners and say, "Jesus was such a nice guy", but the real significance of those types of things are lost in the years that have past. But to use situations that are shocking to today's viewers, and a medium that is dominant, the message is certaily brought home.

Matthew Lowe

I found Ben McEachen's review of Dogville fascinating. It was well thought out and asked some great questions of the film. As much as I hated this film, it does ask some very loaded questions, so I can see it's merits in asking such questions of today's society. After the shock has worn off it does require thought as to how contemporary society is reflected in the small town of Dogville, and if people relate to this in their everyday lives. I just strongly disagree with the directors methods. I found 'As it is in Heaven' to also ask some great questions, but left feeling refreshed, not violated and angry! I guess I wish to engage with society and face such questions, but find one's methods reflect their point of view. If statements do in fact implicate character, then I don't desire to meet the film maker. But, I am not going to say that such films do not make strong social statements, because they do. Statements that require a response from the audience. This can be a good thing, when done the right way.

cynthia asante

Well I think it’s a good thing that films such as The Jammed are played in today’s society. Film’s like that makes u think and also it tells us what is really going on in the world. There are so many dramatic crimes against humanity going on right even as I speak. As for us, daily we do our things and we are just not aware of it. However at back of our mind we are aware of such things that are unjust but we choose to ignore it. There are many reasons why we choose to ignore those thoughts. I think our main reason why we choose to ignore is the fact that we think we can not make a difference as one person. Another reason might also be is people being afraid of stepping out in action because they are afraid of the consequences. Such as not living in a save protected environment anymore, not living in the comfort zone anymore. Thus films can wake us up and give us chances to think again and to make a choice again to bring change or not. I believe that If everyone chose to do little and do her or his part together we will make a difference.

Rachelle Marcos

I think films like Dogville and the Jammed are supposed to give a wake-up call to this contemporary society of its moral depravity. Films are one of the most effective tools of communication that can reflect the image of fallen humanity. I'm glad to hear that the Jammed has given 'the Good Shepherd' better publication in their endeavors to stop human-trafficking. I believe that Christians should embark on making more impacting movies than the secular world do. If for the world, the movies are like their 'Bible' which can affect their lives, why not the Church use this media to light the world?

Liz Langton

Wow. These films certainly do pave the way for humanity to take a long hard look at itself. I guess the question is whether people actually will.

I believe these films play a role of making society aware of primarly its behaviour and the behaviour of others. In this sense, they allow society a reflecion and I would hope not only to make a statement about the world in which we live but to live in the hope of something actually changing.


It astounds me how our society has become so sexualised. Billboards, advertising on buses, magazines, and especially mediums like the internet have publicised ‘sex’ and created an addictive market of lust. Coupled with the unjust violence of which human beings are capable, unfortunately heartbreaking issues like rape and prostitution do occur in this world, as films such as Dogville illustrate. As Ben McEachen notes, the sex and violence in Dogville is ‘frank, confronting and depressing’; however he goes on to say that Von Trier includes it for a reason. “The sexual violence demonstrates the warping of God’s gift of making love, exemplifying how human selfishness and desire can turn something beautiful into an ugly scourge. The finales ‘righteous’ violence represents punishment for crimes which many of us would like to see happen in real life. Waiting for so-called ‘bad people’ to be dealt with in Gods time, can often not taste as sweet as seeing them get their due in our lifetimes.” As Ben noted, I found that as a Christian I was alarmed at my response to Dogville’s finale. One of the things that struck me in a film such as Dogville, was that in our contemporary society we become so emotionally detached and desensitized from issues around us, (for example, when an ad appears on TV asking us to sponsor a poor, starving, diseased child - we can flick the channel) that it’s almost like we need to watch something so harsh and confronting to get a realisation of our own flaws and to ask ourselves the question ‘am I part of Dogville?’

Rebecca Lowe

I actually hated this film to be honest, because I feel it displayed human depravity at it's lowest. It made us look like a pack of dogs who have no hope. I hated the line "If you forgive then you don't make people accountable" the character of Grace was a doormat for every man and his dog (pun unintended) and I think it would leave our culture feeling more disturbed then they were before by watching this whole thing.

Christie Valentine

The importance of these films in contemporary society?

While I did not "enjoy" watching "Dogville" and probably won't see "The Jammed" because of its sexual content there are truths they present in facing the reality of our society. These are truths that cannot be ignored simply because of uncomfortable feelings. The power of a story and how film can be used as a tool to share that story makes a powerful impact to teach and challenge the audience to be aware of and maybe even do something about changing it.

Kasie Carpenter

Quite interesting. It's funny, cause we all know of what goes on in society, but it is like we don't really think about it until other people make it topic and then it's like, 'wow that is what goes on!'

I'm one of those people that get stirred up over injustice. Watching 'Dogville' made me a bit angry over how she could not stand up for herself, and even when people find out, they don't do anything to stop it, just judge her (as though it was her fault) and take all the more advantage of her.

At the same time, I have had to learn to put myself in the place of others who go through such unfortunate happenings and have realised, it is so easy to say stuff, 'stand up for yourself', 'tell someone', 'just don't let it happen'. However, for that person in that moment, it isn't that easy.

There needs to be a change in the culture...

Jessica Edward-Paul

My first reaction to this question is to say: there is no room for these sorts of films in contemporary society! They are awful and we don't need to be exposed to such horrible on-screen violence.

However after thinking about this for a bit, I realised how sheltered we can allow ourselves to be. I still don't think that such violence on-screen is extremely necessary. I would hope that the makers of these films who are presenting these statements about society are doing something about it other than just reflecting it in a film. But I do see how humankind definitely needs a wake-up call and unfornately, thanks to blood and guts on Hollywood, extreme violence can be the only way to get our attention.


Just briefly, I think that the role that films such as "Dogville" and "The Jammed" have in our society is, among other things, to help us open our eyes, to see what is right in front of our noses. The only problem with that is that each person who sees movies like these still has the choice as to whether or not they will open their eyes i.e. allow themselves to personally grapple with the issues that are brought up. Even so, we seem to be in the 'age of movies' where films are the hot topic of conversation, and so films such as these can, do and will play a part in causing change. Or maybe I'm overly optimistic... :)

Kristoffer Godoe

After listening to the interview with Australian actor Veronica Sywak, we understand that the movie called “The Jammed” may appear as a strong and impacting movie. Similarly to the movie “Dogville”, it can be disturbing to the audience. Disturbing movies like these are reality-like. Ignoring the scene and set up of the physical surroundings in “Dogville”, the move can easily relate to real situations and scenarios. Movies such as Dogville can be important for certain people to watch, because we can understand more about people’s personal struggle. One thing I personally have discovered by growing older, is that when I was twelve, thirteen and fourteen etc, I knew very little about life. Movies such as these brings our view of reality into perspective and ay broaden the way we see people on a daily basis.
A great point given by Ben McEachen, was his statements about the rape in Dogville, he explains in the podcast, how something so beautiful as sex, which God created, can be turned into something so brutal and evil as rape. This mad me think about the extremeness of rape. It was a brilliant explanation of the scenario, which made me understand more about what rape really is.
As a last point, the maker of Dogville, has never been to America, yet he uses America as an example in the film. In the Podcats, McEachen explains that the movie is not targedet towards America, but rather it is about people in general. The focus is more on the worlds socitey, rather than one nation. This stresses the importance of such films, and why they apply to the modern socitey. Rape and murder are real issue face by real people. Dogville is an acted example of something which could be real.


Wow, I don't think it is a coincidence that there is a church movement across the earth of fighting injustice. I think society in general is starting to become more aware of the human condition not only in other parts of the world, but in their own backyards through films such as these. If we look at the secular response to the new knowledge of human injustice... how much more should the church's response be to injustice?

I think Ben is right in that we should beaware of how we are- could i fit as a member of the town of dogville? Do i turn my head and say 'ignorance is bliss'? We judge the townspeople of Dogvile and the 'traffic-ers' from Jammed, but I think we are capable of the same behaviour... We should constantly challenge ourselves and monitor ourselves because we are all capable of doing the same thing...

I think these two films challenge society and the church even if generalizations are made about locations and such- the reality is there. This stuff happens and we need to have an answer to it.

Prisca Post

I believe that it all depends on the purpose of watching the movie. I think its quite unhealthy to watch movies like Dogville for entertainment and become num and eventually watch them for enjoyment. If you watch/ show the movie for educational purposes and with this want to confront people about society and where it could be heading towards I believe that it can be usefull. I do have to say though that to show a movie like dogville is useless. There are so many horrific events in this movie that you have to watch in order to come to a 15 min conclusion in the end which is does not even represent God's charachter. I think that there are a lot Christlike movies that can bring accross the same message and are more appropriate to watch. I wouldn't recommend anyone to watch this movie.

Koki Sato

Wow here are another interesting reviews and films "Dogville" and "The jammed". As everyone said above, these films make us uncomfotable and truely disturing those who watch. But as we think so, we might need to consider why we think so. Why do we feel uncomfortable about watching such films or hate these in more obvious expression? The answers will be because it is truth or because it demotivates human beings or disvalue humanity. Certainly these kind of films demotivates us and make us uncomfortable and frustrate us about injustice or depravity of human beings and so on. Therefore, on the contrary, it can be said that these films motivate us toward justice, integrity, peace and all good virtues. If there are only 'happy' films, no one will actually get opportunities to consider about dark side of humanity such as grief, death, violence, injustice and so on. These films place in our society to kind of alert and point our eyes toward what we don't want to see.

Neil Castro

Unfortunately I missed out on the film last week since I was absent, however Ben's film review was more than adequate to inform me well. The interview with Veronica also gave a good insight to 'The Jammed' film. These types of films would probably play more than one possible role in contemporary society, of which many have already been mentioned. I believe they can be either bitter or sweet, depending on the audience. To one, these films can be a medium to open the eyes to what is blatantly real in society and cause us to reflect on what we would do about injustice. They can also manipulate how we feel toward the portrayed situations and, depending on how they are portrayed, influence how we feel or think or treat those who in real life are in similar situations (it could very well be ourselves). We may not agree with the film's method of portraying their message graphically, but we can't deny these films intend to evoke emotion, whether good or bad. Let's hope that these films do provide a challenge to viewers to better themselves, inspire better treatment of others and, thus, a change in society.

Carina Ratzka

I believe that films like the Jammed or Blood Diamond, that show contemporary real-life scenarios embedded into a story, can have a lot impact. They are like documentaries, but because they are also “just a movie” they can “reach” people who would never watch a documentary, read the news paper or watch the news. These films can bring a great awareness to society, because they present the issue in a way that people usually can relate to. When ads from charity organizations come on the TV, they are over in a few seconds and not only can we forget them easily, we can also approach them as just another problem that we can’t really do much about anyway. In a movie, on the other hand, we are confronted with a problem for about two hours, and are also engaged, as most people feel with the characters in the film. I think this is more likely to prompt people to inform themselves about an issue and maybe even get involved to do something about it. At the least, there are critics and newspapers and interviews with stars that somewhat relate to the issue shown in the film. So from the beginning, the audience and awareness that is raised about a topic through a movie is, I believe, a lot higher than through other sources.
Dogville is different. I have spoken to a few people (who thought that Blood Diamond or Hotel Rwanda were really good movies) who thought that Dogville was just horrible and boring and they never wanted to watch it again. The difference, I believe, is that the message is a lot more hidden and has to be searched for and interpreted. I think many people, including myself, don’t want to ask themselves the question: “So how does that relate to me and my life?” after having seen a movie like Dogville. The movie is so grotesque that I just want to forget about it. While Blood Diamond inspires me in a way to really get out there and make a difference, Dogville doesn’t do that at all. I don’t know why, really. Maybe it’s the way the movie is made, maybe it’s the ending, maybe the reason is that it is so different from a Hollywood movie…or maybe it’s all of this together.
Anyway…having said all of this…I am not really convinced of the necessity of films like Dogville in society, but that doesn’t mean that I think they shouldn’t exist. I am sure that that style has an impact on people as well, I am just not one of them. For films like Blood Diamond or The Jammed (which I haven’t seen, but sounds really interesting)…I think they are very important, and there should be more movies made about problems that seem to be ignored or overlooked by most of society. I think films have a unique way of presenting a problem, especially to a society that is so focused on movies and media.

Chris Morrison

The role of confronting films in contemporary society is multifaceted. Humans are genetically programmed to resist evolution and by extension change in all its forms personal, relational, institutional, social, legislative, national and global.

1. Transcendence

films allow us to view society as objective outsiders. In a sense films distance ourselves from ourselves and therefore empower us to change

2. Personification

films personalise social issues, giving the sufferers names and faces and families and backgrounds. Thus the suffering becomes real and concrete and legitimate and urgent.

3. Allegory

related to transcendence films are sufficiently divorced from reality so as to be like us without being us. Thus the initiative to confront ourselves becomes ours alone and we do not feel as though we are personally accused

4. Non-confrontational

films are by nature entertaining and thus the confrontation comes in a disguised form, like the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down

5. Awareness

films bring issues to your attention that you may otherwise be unaware of. for instance I did not realize that Australia even had a sex-slave trade

Those then are my defences for confronting films- they enable transcendence, utilise personification, allegory, are non-confrontational and bring awareness

Vanessa Pope

I believe films like dogville give a voice to the underground happenings of everyday life...Things that we pity, but do nothing about...Maybe if it came to our door step (kinda like Grace did) we would help, but, for the most part, tend to read in the newspaper and forget about an hour later...
Films like Dogville, the Jammed, and even some Lifetime movies address the issue in an emotionally disturbing manner, because we should be disturbed, we should be restless with the idea of sex-trade still happening around the globe.

Tinky Mulchandani

Truthfully I havent watched the movie Jammed,however,assuming from the podcast it sounds like the movie can be rated as highly confrontational. In both the films, the salient ongoing evil in the world is exposed. Victims who have suffered at the expense of others' misconduct will testify that the world is wicked and, also, that people cannot be trusted. We see this to be true in Dogville. Grace (the heroine of the movie) came to the town of Dogville with good intentions and enacted it by helping the inhabitants. And in return she endured mistreatments from the people of Dogville. For all we know, the people's inhumanity came to the forefront. Along the same lines, the Jammed depicts the issue of human trafficking. I guess the theme of these movies have largely to do with the fact that the disadvantaged person will generally suffer the abuse of threats simply because of their incompetency and vulnerability. Even in small matters, like getting people to do something for us because we are aware of their great sense of indebtedness towards us is a good example of the selfishness of men potrayed in both these movies. The "unconditional love" that God gives to us freely have many times been failed to be exemplified by people for one another.This is a sad reality. Such movies have the potential to bring to the surface some of the hidden devil within people. It is important to recognize this damaging temptation of using others to satisfy our needs, that we are capable of and contradict this by releasing the Godly love in us for others. Help because you want to help. Motives outside sincerity is destructive.

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