Von Trier’s main goal while making any movie is to arouse these doubts and questions that float in your mind once you finish watching his films. The plot of, “Dogville,” revolves around a young woman named Grace, who appears to be on the run from the mobs, who are trying to kill her. She stumbles into the town of Dogville and meets Tom, who seems to be the epitome of morality and kindness. The people of Dogville agree to hide Grace as long as she agrees to help them around town to earn her keep.
However, before long the townspeople start treating Grace as their own personal slave. The men start to sexually abuse and rape her without bothering to even hide it. The people seem to believe that their treatment of Grace is a perfectly acceptable trade in exchange to hiding her. As you watch the townspeople go from peaceful, quiet people to vicious and hateful abusers, you are left to wonder if their actions are driven by their circumstances or are they simply following their true nature?!
The animalistic theme and the naturalistic element are heavily intertwined throughout the movie. As the movie progresses we see that the people have no sense of right or wrong. They are behaving like animals and treating Grace as a slave. Moreover, we realize that the name of the town is a foreshadowing of its inhabitants. Grace does not heavily protest the people’s treatment of her because she believes in inherent morality, she believes that people have no control over their own actions and thus should be forgiven.
However, at the end of the film she exacts her revenge and allows herself to feel the anger that she has denied herself. Ironically, the only creature that survives the town is the, “dog. ” The ending scene explains a lot about the Grace’s attitude throughout the movie. Grace seems to accept her abuse with no anger and at some point you wonder if she has become numb from all that has happened to her?! Or is she too forgiving? Perhaps Grace’s quiet acceptance of her abuse caused the people to abuse her further.
Like the writer Honor de Balzac once said, “Perhaps it is only human nature to inflict suffering on anything that will endure suffering, whether by reason of its genuine humility, or indifference, or sheer helplessness. ” At the end we realize that the mob’s leader is her father and that she has been running from the immorality of her father’s business, ironically she runs into Dogville, where she encounters all that is unethical and immoral. Grace tries to justify the actions of the townspeople saying that, “dogs only obey their own nature, so why shouldn’t we forgive them? However, Grace realizes that she cannot justify their actions towards her anymore, this is demonstrated when the omniscient says, “if she had acted like them, she could not have defended a single one of her actions and could not have condemned them harshly enough. It was as if her sorrow and pain finally assumed their rightful place. ” Grace finally understands that she is not God. It is not her job to forgive, she is allowed to be angry, and she is allowed to take action against those who hurt her.