In this week's installment of his Beyond the Multiplex column, Salon film writer Andrew O'Herir takes issue with the second installment of Lars Von Trier's American trilogy, Manderlay. Manderlay apparently uses the same staging conceit as Dogville, which starred Nicole Kidman. For those unfamiliar with Dogville, the movie takes place on a soundstage with very minimalist staging, (in fact the buildings along the mainstreet are drawn with chalk outlines.)
In an open e-mail to Von Trier, O'Herir asks a number of questions, several of them refer to Bertolt Brecht:
2. In this film, as in "Dogville," you seem to be doing something that's very much in the spirit of Bertolt Brecht: the obvious artificiality of the presentation and setting, a situation that is satirical or cynical or absurd, a very loose relationship to actual history and geography. Is this a conscious influence for you?
2a. But Brecht's theater was specifically directed at capitalism: He sought to show the heartlessness and evil that current economic reality made possible, or inevitable. I don't think you're aiming at the same target. Or are you?
3. Another thing Brecht did was to try to engage the viewer
emotionally, even within this artificial and/or implausible setting. You try to do that, don't you? At least, I found the young girl's death, and the subsequent "execution" of the old woman, very affecting, even though the larger situation is not all that realistic. [Sorry about this one, readers; you'll just have to
see the film.]
I was reminded a little of Brecht with Dogville, but I felt more of an influence, (or rather a riff off of,) Our Town by Thornton Wilder.
Probably George Hunka of Superfluities would be able to speak more eloquently about O'Herir's above assertions.