Few actresses have matched Nicole Kidman’s hot streak in the early 2000s. Not that she set the box office on fire, more our imaginations. People watch this accidental movie star fully embody a variety of characters with not only ease, but technical perfection. She is a consummate professional when it comes to characterization and the emotional control she displays over her characters. This perfection draws the audience to her even when she shares the screen with others more famous. Although now she is a household name, that is only because she snatched it away from those who couldn’t hold onto audiences quite like her.
Directed by: Lars von Trier
Written by: Lars von Trier
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Paul Bettany, Patricia Clarkson, and James Caan
You’ll notice while watching Dogville that the town doesn’t actually exist. Not in any literal sense that is, but in the minds of the actors and the ideals of the provoc-auteur behind it, the fictional non-town comes fully to life. Lars von Trier, hell-bent on eliminating elements he deems unnecessary in films, has this time decided to completely remove an actual setting from his movie. Instead all of the actors, big ones mind you, walk around a stage marked with condescending street names and flimsy outlines of houses. You can see the entire population, and you often do.
For three rapturous hours von Trier holds and sustains a mood without anything but people, white lines, and some flimsy set pieces. It’s a terrific feat all by itself, but added to the material is a script powered by ideas and filled with allegory. He may have never been to America, but he sure knows how this country sees itself. He approaches the filming as if he were watching a village of ants, often looking from above and then zooming in with his magnifying glass.
Famous for: Shocking his audience, controversy, female lead performances, depressing idealism, anti-religious undercurrents, beautifully unique visuals, low budget hand-held camera angles, talking about his fears and emotions, and refusing to watch his own movies.
Hypothetical title: Heaven’s Highway
Hypothetical premise: After being set up for a misdemeanor and kicked out by her polygamist family, lonely widow Gretchen kills her abusive father and flees her small west-coast mountain town. Emerging from the mountains a completely new person, she begins rebuilding her life for herself, learning her sense of individuality and coming into her own. However, the past catches back up to her, and she is soon on the run from the law as well as her haunting, abusive past. She begins seeing delusional crimes committed in everyday life, mimicking both the ones her father did and the way she killed him. When the police catch her, there is no proof that her father was the patriarch of a repressive polygamist regime because nobody in it will talk but her. She is sentenced to life in prison, but commits suicide after reflecting on how good her life was for those few months.
Cross between: Thelma and Louise, Dancer in the Dark, Big Love, and Dogville.