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Manderlay The politics of slavery and the follies of nation-building highlight Danish director Lars von Trier's thought-provoking follow-up to the director's 2003 drama Dogville, featuring The Village's Bryce Dallas Howard in the role originally played by Nicole Kidman, and shot in the same stage-bound style as its predecessor. Shortly after leaving Dogville, Grace (Howard) and her father (Willem Dafoe) wander into a gated Alabama community still operating under the tenets of slavery. Appalled to stumble across a brutal scene in which a white master is viciously lashing his slave (Isaach de Bankolé), Grace hastily intercedes and pleads with the abusive man to treat his workers with respect and dignity. When merciless matriarchal plantation owner Mam (Lauren Bacall) dies shortly thereafter, the remaining slaves, who have never tasted freedom and only known life under "Mam's Law," implore the sympathetic Grace to help ease their turbulent transition toward democratic rule, with disastrous results. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi
Fascinating and Engrossing
Posted by: backrowreviews from: on
As in writer/director Lars von Trier's 2004 "Dogville," everything in this sequel takes place on a warehouse-size, nearly bare performance space with only minimal set elements, limbo-darkness beyond the illuminated areas, and locations designated map-style by words painted on the floor.
And like "Dogville," it still manages to be fascinating and absolutely engrossing.
This is part two of von Trier's trilogy of films that began with "Dogville." Bryce Dallas Howard takes over the role of Grace, played by Nicole Kidman last time around. Howard does a good job of embodying a more crusading and "take-charge" Grace, a wised-up version of Kidman's character.
The time period is the 1930s. Grace, her father (played here by Willem Dafoe) and his henchmen have left Dogville and ended up at a southern plantation where slavery never ended. Grace tells her father to leave her and two of his men there, where they reverse the roles of the plantation's whites and blacks.
Don't go expecting a predictable "lesson" movie about equality and social justice, though. The movie has enough twists and turns to offend both the Klan and the NAACP by the time the credits roll.
As outrageous as "Dogville" was, "Manderlay" takes place in an even stranger reality. It's at heart a fairly simple morality fable gone very wrong, a world where even the best of intentions by those who don't know the full story can end up causing more harm than good. And man, is it ever interesting.
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