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Unforgettable Scenes #10: “Happy birthday…”

Festen (The Celebration): Review

Review: The Idiots

Dogme 95: The Pros and Cons of this Intriguing Genre

In March 1995, the whole world of cinema gathered in Paris to celebrate nothing less than the ONE HUNDREDTH ANNIVERSARY OF CINEMA! On this historic day, friends and filmmakers Thomas Vinterberg and Lars von Trier announced that they, together, had formulated the idea for a new film genre: “Dogme 95.” It celebrates and cherishes the ideals of simplistic independent cinema; films made on a small budget with very little production values. Vinterberg and Trier had also wrote together the Dogme 95 “Vow of Chastity,” a list of rules which filmmakers would have to follow to the letter for their film to qualify as Dogme. The Vow is as follows, per Wikipedia:

  1. Filming must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in. If a particular prop is necessary for the story, a location must be chosen where this prop is to be found.
  2. The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa. Music must not be used unless it occurs within the scene being filmed, i.e., diegetic.
  3. The camera must be a hand-held camera. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted. The film must not take place where the camera is standing; filming must take place where the action takes place.
  4. The film must be in colour. Special lighting is not acceptable (if there is too little light for exposure the scene must be cut or a single lamp be attached to the camera).
  5. Optical work and filters are forbidden.
  6. The film must not contain superficial action (murders, weapons, etc. must not occur.)
  7. Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden (that is to say that the film takes place here and now).
  8. Genre movies are not acceptable.
  9. The film format must be Academy 35 mm.
  10. The director must not be credited.

So, they be the rules. They sound simple enough, looking at them, but for the average filmmaker they can be incredibly hard to follow. Some of them seem completely pointless and unnecessary, but Vinterberg and Trier stand by them. Each have only made one film per the Dogme rules, and have both confessed to having broken a rule in at least one manner. The movement no longer exists, and was broken up after having released about 30 films under the Manifesto.

So… why?

Vinterberg and Trier created the movement to preserve the idea of cinema as a whole, how it should be done, and to turn its back on fancy special effects and convoluted plot twists. The Dogme movies are rather simple, and often quite original.

The Pros

  • Costs and investment worries – a thing of the past. You can make your movie easily and independently, without worrying about big budget squeezes, financial problems and business control. You have the freedom to make your movie your way.
  • To know you’re part of a special, new, inventive genre. Having the knowledge that you’ve made a movie in a way that few others have, and that it’s been personally checked and verified to be Dogme by Vinterberg, Trier and co. (NB: Since Dogme 95 have split up, you can no longer have your movie approved to be Dogme.)
  • For those cinematic purists (a large group of which I’m proud to be a self-applicated member), you know you’re not tarnishing the great cinematic ideals of filmmaking: a knowledge which makes making a movie surprisingly easier.

The Cons

  • You have a lot more restrictions if you’re going to stick to the vow, and not everyone (including myself) is happy with all the rules. It can be annoying following these rules, and even a tiny slip up can be breaking the vow.
  • The Director (i.e., you) can’t be credited. This is making a movie and getting zip credit for it. Some might consider it a good thing, but for many it’s pouring all your effort in hard labour into a film that doesn’t even have your name on it. And what’s more – it has everyone else’s.
  • You have to film hand-held. This means for you and your cinematographer, there’s gonna be a lot more hard work. You have to get into the nooks and crannies of your on-location area and film the way you want to, keeping an eye out for continuity errors and any other small slipups that can happen when filming hurriedly.
  • You must make the movie in 35mm film. Why? I may not be old fashioned, and I understand that they’re just trying to maintain the purity of original filmmaking with original cameras, but I see no bad thing about using digital. It works just as well (just ask David Lynch), and makes the editing process that much easier.

It seems like there are more cons, than pros, and it’s up to you to decide what your opinion of the genre is. I’m personally in favour of it, but I think the Vow of Chastity (or Manifesto), could use a bit of tweaking and changes. I think rules 6, 9 and 10, more than others, could be omitted. I don’t see the point in them, and find them unnecessary. If the manifesto was included without those, and I were a budding film director, I would seriously consider making a movie via Dogme. But until then, I find that while it’s a fantastic idea, it is undoubtedly flawed, in one way at least. If you’re going to check out a Dogme 95 movie, I highly recommend Thomas Vinterberg’s Festen (English: The Celebration). It is the first official movie made in Dogme, and probably the best (though I’ve only seen two). Even if you’re not a fan of Dogme 95 and aren’t interested in it at all, I’d still recommend seeing Vinterberg’s film. It’s brilliant.

What do you think of Dogme 95? Do you think Vinterberg and Trier were on to something? Do you like the films of Thomas Vinterberg or Lars von Trier? What Dogme films have you seen? Did you enjoy them?

Let me know your thoughts on these questions and/or just general comments on the subject by leaving a comment below.

Thanks for reading.

100 Things I Love About the Movies

Recently, John at The Droid You’re Looking For made a sequel to his hugely successful “100 Things I Love About the Movies” post, and being a fan of both posts, I’ve decided it’s about time I did my own. It was a very inspirational and thoughtful post, and if you read it yourself it might just make you want to do one of the same. For now, here’s mine:

1: Hi-hi-hi there, at last we meet.

2: The shaking fence in Evil Dead.

3: A rape depicted through the clever usage of a silent movie in Pedro Almodovar’s Talk to Her.

4: Qantas never crashed.

5: Whatever you want, Leo Getz.

6: The stunning ending to Lars von Trier’s Dogville.

7: Dave. Stop, Dave. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it.

8: The best movie cut of all history in Lawrence of Arabia.

9: The theme that plays when we see the man with the Harmonica in Once Upon a Time in the West.

10: Everybody’s Talkin’ At Me…

11: The abrupt ending of Bonnie and Clyde.

12: I’m a star. I’m a star, I’m a star, I’m a star. I’m a big bright shining star. That’s right.

13: The final perfect five minutes of Irreversible…

14: …and how The King’s Speech stole the music!

15: Ellen Burstyn’s monologue in Requiem for a Dream.

16: The hand emerging from the water in Deliverance.

17: The final half-hour of Audition.

18: Jimmy Schtewart.

19: The emotion and raw energy with which Kirk Douglas delivers this line in Paths of Glory: “I apologise to you, sir, for not informing you sooner that you’re a degenerate, sadistic old man, and you can go to Hell before I apologise to you now or ever again!”

20: John C. Reilly shining his flashlight into the camera in Magnolia.

21: Blood Simple to True Grit and everything in between.

22: Hello… Hello, Dimitri? I… I can’t hear, could you turn the music down? That’s great, you’re coming through fine. I’m coming through fine, too, am I? I agree with you, it’s great to be fine. Now then, Dimitri. One of our generals… he went a little funny in the head… you know, funny. And he went and did a silly thing.

23: Tracking shots. All of them.

24: The Monty Python movies (“I fart in your general direction!”)

25: Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television. Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit crushing game shows, stuffing junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pishing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourself. Choose your future. Choose life.

26: Jim Carrey in Liar, Liar.

27: Steve Martin in The Jerk.

28: Isabella Rossellini begging Kyle MacLachlan in Blue Velvet (“Hit me!”).

29: In Heaven… everything is fine.

30: Did You Know You Can Use Old Motor Oil to Fertilise Your Lawn?

31: That lucky occasion when you come across a really, really good TV movie (Indictment: The McMartin Trial)

32: Get away from her, you BITCH!

33: I am Death. I have long walked at your side.

34: The most striking and disturbing use of colour in any film, that of Sven Nykvist’s brilliant cinematography in Ingmar Bergman’s fantastic Cries and Whispers.


36: The slow-paced and slightly comic final duel in Barry Lyndon.

37: The deadly silent arrival of Martin Sheen into Colonel Kurtz new jungle home, rudely interrupted by an obviously high Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now.

38: The first six or so minutes of Persona.

39: This is my rifle, this is my gun. This is for fighting, this is for fun.

40: The haunting piano music that plays throughout the latter half of Kubrick’s fantastic Eyes Wide Shut.

41: A surprise cameo from the greatest stand-up comedian of all time in a non-comedy role in Lost Highway.

42: Tom Cruise’s finest hour:

43: The perfect opening shot of Apocalypse Now.

44: Bernard Herrman’s shrieking violins.

45: Black and White movies in the era of Colour.

46: The nameless dystopian city in David Fincher’s Se7en.

47: Uncomfortably casual nudity in Short Cuts.

48: Marge Gunderson.

49: Nobody fucks with the Jesus.

50: Bring Out the Gimp.

51: Norma Desmond’s delusions of grandeur.

52: The drug deal scene in Boogie Nights.

53: I only got two things in this world: my balls and my word. And I don’t break em for nobody.

54: Robert Downey, Jr. in Natural Born Killers.

55: The “train going into the tunnel” at the very end of North by Northwest, a clever albeit overused sexual metaphor.

56: Ricky Gervais. Always. Always.

57: A movie set entirely within one room (i.e. Buried)

58: Rob Brydon’s cameo in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

59: Nothing’s wrong with it, Tommy. It’s tip top. I’m just not sure about the colour.

60: I am Jack’s _____ ______.

61: Sean Penn in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, oh, and while we’re at it…

62: 80s high school movies. All of them.

63: The epilogue of Pink Flamingos.

64: Clerks. ‘Nuff said.

65: Try getting a reservation at Dorsia now, you fucking stupid bastard!

66: Silencio.

67: Earn this. Earn it.

68: The final shot of the rat at the end of The Departed.

69: Extended Director’s Cuts.

70: I’m mad as Hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!

71: The inability of Jack Lemmon to be able to watch Grand Hotel in The Apartment.

72: Memorable last lines in Billy Wilder movies.

73: We’re a loving couple that doesn’t touch.

74: Sunday nights, where I put aside a few hours to rewatch one of my favourite movies, no matter what it is or how many times I’ve seen it.

75: The creepy hidden camera shots in Michael Haneke’s Cache.

76: Amelie’s strange games with random people in the film of the same name.

77: Go round mums, deal with Phillip, grab Liz, go to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint and wait for all this to blow over.

78: Shelley Winters in The Poseidon Adventure: “In the water, I’m a very skinny lady.”

79: Sidney Lumet. Rest in Peace.

80: The final shocking moments of Planet of the Apes.

81: The meaning of Roger O. Thornhill’s middle initial.

82: Martin Scorsese’s cameo in Taxi Driver.

83: Gregory Peck’s powerful courtroom monologue in To Kill A Mockingbird…

84: …and the uniquely different but still subtly similar version presented by a suprisingly good Matthew McConaughey in A Time to Kill.

85: Dustin Hoffman’s moving turn as Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy…

86: …and the eerie subtle similarities between Jon Voight’s character in the same movie and Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights.

87: Mr. Jingles.

88: I just wanted to hold the little baby.

89: You mean the man who inserted rubber fist in my anus was a homosexual?

90: The stunning revelation at the end of Spoorloos (The Vanishing).

91: How quickly a director can take my interest, and how stunningly tight their grip remains on me within the shortest of times, and how it can last seemingly forever, as evidenced by my recent delve into the films of Ingmar Bergman.

92: Hit Girl.

93: Bill Murray waking up to the same nauseatingly repetitive jingle every morning in Groundhog Day.

94: Reese Witherspoon humiliating a disfigured Kiefer Sutherland in Freeway.

95: The little bit of low-budget masterpiece that was Sex, Lies and Videotape.

96: Dogme 95.

97: The Criterion Collection.

98: The little things in movies that so few directors really think to care about.

99: How movies affect my everyday life, the way I do things, the little idiosyncrasies that people rarely notice, and how I think and perceive things.

100: “I’m finished.”