Manderlay

"Very Good"

Manderlay Review


You should be very suspicious of anyone who owns Dogville and no other Lars Von Trier film. It's a ruse, a hoax, and a ploy, a way for that pretentious NYU philosophy major with the vintage Members Only jacket to impress that really cool, semi-punk girl with the cool Husker Du pin and prove to her that his brain is much more worthy than anyone else's. To like Dogville alone is to like the idea of Von Trier and to think you're special for picking up all the philosophical ideas behind it, along with name-checking Brecht. You're not, and Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark, and The Element of Crime are much better films. Expect a copy of his latest film, Manderlay, Dogville's sequel, to be placed on that NYU kid's DVD shelf right next to Dogville, allowing for more philosophical meandering but this time, on racism and white, liberal guilt.

Picking up after the violent ending of Dogville, we catch up with Grace Mulligan (Bryce Dallas Howard, replacing Nicole Kidman) as her and her father (Willem Dafoe, replacing James Caan) end up at a small southern plantation named Manderlay. A young, black woman runs up to the car, yelling and crying about how they are going to whip Timothy (Isaach De Bankole). Stopping the car immediately and running onto the plantation, against her father's wishes, she finds that Manderlay is a plantation that still employs slavery. Seeing this as a grave injustice, Grace takes a few of her father's goons and starts running the plantation more like a business, making the white owners work while the slaves are given freedom to go about as they please, receiving shares in the crop's revenue. The slaves are led by Willhelm (Danny Glover), an older man who used to serve Mam (Lauren Bacall), the head of the plantation. As things progress, a dust storm, a child's death, the execution of an elder and Grace's slowly unraveling lust for Timothy start raising the issue that maybe things were better as they were.

Manderlay tastes like cough syrup; we may not like what we see but we really need to see it. The film's target is the white liberals of America who think their guilt and humility are so great, that they know what's best for other races. (The road to hell is paved with good intentions, as we all know.) Since this is a monster subject and his opinion on race is so dense, the film lacks the focus that Dogville had. However, in the hands of a man who tends to deal strictly in dense, uncompromising ideals, you have to stand in awe of a film that says a lot of things we're not supposed to hear. Howard does good work filling Kidman's shoes, except now there are more control issues at hand then there were in Dogville. Howard knows how to deal with them, because she understands that Grace is just a bundle of good intentions without much consideration for the effects of her thoughts. The rest of the cast is excellent, especially Bankole, who gives a brutal realism to the sexual attraction between Timothy and Grace.

The big boos come as the credits roll, with David Bowie's "Young Americans" playing over pictures of Emmett Till and other slavery-era atrocities. Many will mistake the Brechtian style and the emotional outbursts for pretentious filmmaking. It's not; it's film for people who are interested in new opinions and interpretations and aren't scared to be put in an uncomfortable place. And no, just because it's heavy on ideas and controversial doesn't make it Von Trier's best film. If that's what you think, the closest Salvation Army is on the corner of Bedford and 7th, and the DVD will be out in June.

Reviewed at the 2005 New York Film Festival.

Stop or my mom will shoot.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 139 mins

In Theaters: Friday 3rd June 2005

Box Office Worldwide: $597 thousand

Budget: $14M

Distributed by: IFC Films

Production compaines: IFC Films, Isabella Films BV

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 51%
Fresh: 51 Rotten: 49

IMDB: 7.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: as Grace, as Timothy, as Wilhelm, as Grace's Father, as Thomas, as Mam, as Niels, as Mr. Kirspe, as Philomena, as Narrator (Voice), Suzette Llewellyn as Flora

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Cars 3 Movie Review

Cars 3 Movie Review

It's been six years since the last Cars movie (there were two Planes movies in...

The Beguiled Movie Review

The Beguiled Movie Review

In her inimitable loose style, Sofia Coppola remakes the 1971 Clint Eastwood movie from a...

War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

The surprisingly thoughtful prequel trilogy comes to a powerful conclusion with this robust, dramatic thriller,...

It Comes At Night Movie Review

It Comes At Night Movie Review

This sharply original horror film not only approaches its premise from an unexpected angle, but...

Okja Movie Review

Okja Movie Review

As Tilda Swinton reteams with her Snowpiercer director, Korea's Bong Joon Ho, it's perhaps unsurprising...

Spider-Man: Homecoming Movie Review

Spider-Man: Homecoming Movie Review

This may be the third reboot of this franchise in 15 years, risking audience exhaustion,...

Despicable Me 3 Movie Review

Despicable Me 3 Movie Review

Actually the fourth film in the series (don't forget the prequel Minions), this animated super-villain...

Advertisement
Baby Driver Movie Review

Baby Driver Movie Review

Wildly energetic and so cool it hurts, this action movie has been put together in...

All Eyez On Me Movie Review

All Eyez On Me Movie Review

There's a clear sense that this Tupac Shakur biopic is hoping to build on the...

Hampstead Movie Review

Hampstead Movie Review

Deliberately appealing to older audiences, this undemanding comedy-drama comes with a hint of social relevance...

The Book of Henry Movie Review

The Book of Henry Movie Review

Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years...

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

With this fifth Transformers movie, it seems clear that Michael Bay is still trying to...

Churchill Movie Review

Churchill Movie Review

This drama about the iconic British prime minister tells a darkly personal story set over...

Gifted Movie Review

Gifted Movie Review

This is one of those films that dances right up to the edge of soapy...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.