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Text Commentary

The Community's Second Verdict
by Grace Joyal `

The townspeople of Dogville have manipulated Grace since her arrival; because she is a fugitive, it’s easier for them to justify their motivations in making her work long hours for little pay. Grace plays the righteous victim—she always does the right thing in her interactions in Dogville- she doesn’t want to jeopardize these ‘good people’s’ consciences. In this instance, two forces are at play-- Grace, as a commodity to the town, and Tom, as the main manipulator in the town’s economic game with Grace.

Grace is no longer a human being to the people of Dogville. She’s simply a commodity— one that’s fallen right into their laps. They will use her at her best, until she withers away. Von Trier is making a statement about American values. Von Trier shows how money—how Dogville measures its increased fear and inconvenience— is seen as being the top-most priority for Dogville’s citizens. Von Trier portrays Dogville’s daily routine as trivial, and without much promise for financial growth in the future. Grace’s arrival isn’t a burden for them; it’s a chance for economic gain and an assertion of power and control. Grace’s influence on the town is a positive thing only so far as it produces economic benefits for the town. Grace is shot from straight-on in this sequence, showing her vulnerability. She’s just waiting to be crushed. She wants them to want her, to need her-- she can’t accept that these people just want to use her—for her work, for her body, for their own personal gain.

Tom is acting as the main manipulator in this situation, using Grace as a pawn at his will, as he has from when she first arrived. He bargains her time and efforts. He’s sexually attracted to Grace and fantasizes with the idea of something happening between them. To keep her there, he must convince her that her stake in Dogville is even greater now. Because Grace has become a more desired object by authorities, she should become even more of a subservient actor in the community. Grace is uncomfortable with Tom’s proposal at first—her initial reaction shows that she senses something manipulative in his words. Von Trier uses fluid, panning camera movement to show a sort of urgency and volatility to Grace and Tom’s exchange, or rather, Tom’s decree to Grace. Tom is shot from a profile, hinting that he can’t quite take responsibility for what he’s saying. Because he and the rest of Dogville has so little say in their economic mobility, they will do whatever they can to play Grace to their advantage.

This Commentary is related to the following Clips:
The Community's Second Verdict by Lars von Trier (2003) In this scene from director Lars von Trier's Dogville, Thomas Edison (Paul Bettany) informs Grace (Nicole Kidman) that the community of Dogville feels her continued presence puts them at a disadvantage, at least from an economic standpoint.