April 22, 2006


The received wisdom on this film seems to be something along the lines of Peter Bradshaw's comment in The Grauniad that with this film von Trier's "mission is to vex and embarrass the United States. […] He wants to annoy all Americans, black and white — these Yanks think they're so cool; they're just a bunch of racists and Uncle Toms". But this film isn't ever going to annoy all Americans, the vast majority of whom have never heard of von Trier, let alone seen "Manderlay". Surely von Trier's aim is to annoy American film critics, to make them feel impotent or irrelevant, to make them feel reluctant or unwilling participants in von Trier's hypocrisy, his private little joke at the expense of his (few) viewers. "Yes, you get it", he might be saying, "but who out there in the real world cares? Yes, my film is deeply hypocritical, but what are you going to do about it beyond wringing your hands in complicit silence?" After all, the canonical von Trier audience is surely composed almost entirely of critics: Manderlay (like the whole Dogma Thing) is aimed squarely at critics — they're the only audience he seems to have in mind or care about. Manderlay's a provocation, for sure, but not one aimed at America (a place, judging by his films, von Trier seems to know only third-hand).

The film itself? Not bad, a few good moments — better than I've come to expect from von Trier, at any rate.

(Part of Flix).



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