Saturday, January 10, 2004

true to their school

Back in 1995, four Danish film directors proposed a vow of chastity, a declaration of purity in their filmmaking. This pact was labeled Dogme 95.

Here's an an abridged version of the dogma:

I swear to the following set of rules drawn up and confirmed by Dogme 95:

Shooting must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in.
The sound must never be produced apart from the image or vice-versa.
The camera must be handheld. Any movement or mobility attainable in the hand is permitted.
The film must be in colour. Special lighting is not acceptable.
Optical work and filters are forbidden.
The film must not contain superficial action.
Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden.
Genre movies are not acceptable.
The film format must be Academy 35mm.
The director must not be credited.
Furthermore I swear as a director to refrain from personal taste. I am no longer an artist. I swear to refrain from creating a 'work', as I regard the instant as more important than the whole. My supreme goal is to force the truth out of my characters and settings. I swear to do so by all the means available and at the cost of any good taste and any aesthetic considerations.
Several years ago, we saw Thomas Vinterberg's Celebration or Festen, one of the first of the Dogme movies. Partner lived in Denmark for a year and likes to brush up on his Danish from time to time, and tell me how the sub-title translators missed the mark.

It was darkly lit, supposedly in part improvised, and in the search for the truth came up with somewhat over the top characterizations. Characters aren't just cranky, or malicious, but are terribly bad folk. Not much subtlety.

This weekend, we watched a DVD copy of Lone Sherfig's Italian for Beginners, another in this line of filmmaking without airs, so to speak. It's not theatrical like theater, but again, I find the characterizations are drawn a bit too dramatic, and one gets the feeling of watching a soap opera without the music giving us cues. It's the story of an odd collection of lonely hearts in a small Danish suburb learning Italian and also their own need and hunger for love. One of the characters is a newly licensed pastor who fill-ins while the regular pastor is suspended for pushing the organist over the balcony. The old pastor is still living in the parsonage but is restrained from attacking the organist again.

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