Movie Review by Toby White
Starring: Jamie Bell, Bill Pullman, Michael Angarano, Danso Gordon, Novella Nelson
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Watching DOGMA – Lars Von Trier’s extraordinary take on small-town utopian dysfunction – I thought I’d seen something fundamentally unique. Never mind the physical stage setting – I just wrote that off as Von Trier quirkiness – it was the dialogue that intrigued me, just how it was written. It had a sort of neo-classical surrealism to it. Like watching a Greek-Dickensian tragedy in a contemporary setting. So it came as no surprise to learn that DEAR WENDY (also written by Von Trier, I later discovered) was written as part of a trilogy of his (together with the forthcoming MANDERLAY), and also intended for the chalk-on-the-floor set treatment. But he gave up directing duties to his Dogme (no, that’s not a spelling mistake) buddy, Thomas Vinterberg. And what a good call that was. Not to say that Von Trier’s version wouldn’t have been as good, just different.
But I’m getting away with myself. Let me give you a brief synopsis first. Jamie Bell plays Dick, a small town teenager, frustrated and lonely, who develops a relationship with a small handgun. Yes, you read that right. But I don’t use the word “relationship” lightly, because that’s exactly what it is. Wendy is his solace, his inspiration and his means of excitement. His blossoming interest in guns and gun culture (see where this is going?) soon extends to his three equally frustrated social misfit colleagues and they form a group called the Dandies where, uniting behind a common interest, they finally find acceptance and an identity. But then it all goes wrong…
Contemporary political comment anyone? Of course. But so what. It’s stylised, unique, off the wall and fun. It could also be considered pretentious – obvious political comment disguised as art and all that – but isn’t that what artists have been doing for centuries? Isn’t that the point? Besides, there are tools that make it tongue-in-cheek: a character introduced half-way through regarding them initially as weirdo losers is soon drawn into their coda and eventually becomes one of them. And the flow of the film is just effortless. By the time you get to the end, you too will wonder how you’ve been drawn in. But you have. Must have been that intriguing, stylised dialogue…
Go on, join the Dandies.