Book Reviews

DOGME UNCUT

By • Sep 1st, 2003 •

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AUTHOR: JACK STEVENSON
310 PAGES / $16.95 U.S./$25.95 CANADA
SANTA MONICA PRESS – 2003

As a screenwriter and filmmaker myself, I don’t really believe in the possibility of the central tenet of Dogme filmmaking: to strip movies of all artifice via adherence to a set of rules, which include vows to shoot only on location, never to produce sound or music apart from the images, shoot only with handheld camera, eschew any application of optical work or camera filters, and to shoot only in color with existing light. (There are more, but you get the idea.) That such an approach results in a more palpable artifice, in which the often underexposed and shaky camera work creates in the viewer a constant awareness that you are watching a film, seems to have eluded the founding fathers of the Dogme revolution. But then, according to Jack Stevenson’s useful and informative new book Dogme Uncut: Lars von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg, and the Gang That Took on Hollywood, not even the movement’s primary creator, Lars von Trier (Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark), has ever made a truly Dogme film anyway.

Still, the movement itself did make quite a splash, at least in Europe, when it emerged from the Danish film industry back in 1995. And a number of American filmmakers since have cited Dogme as an influence on their own work, most notably Steven Soderbergh with Full Frontal and Harmony Korine’s Gummo follow-up Julien Donkey-Boy. Whether or not the Dogme approach was ever meant to be a truly achievable style or just a publicity ploy by a group of filmmakers looking to draw attention to themselves is debatable. That’s what makes Dogme Uncut an indispensable book if you’re looking to make an argument on either side. It provides a thorough overview, and is written in an accessible style by a writer who clearly understands the material.

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