“Dogville” is a daring film in many respects. It was shot on a virtually empty soundstage in the small town of Trollhättan, Sweden. “Dogville” director Lars von Trier felt that minimal scenery and props would help focus the attention on the storytelling and the acting. This technique is rarely used in film, but it’s often used in theater — especially in the works of the dramatist Bertolt Brecht who is a major influence on Von Trier. The song “Pirate Jenny” from Brecht’s play “Three Penny Opera” is said to have sparked the idea for “Dogville”.
“Dogville” takes place in an isolated little town, and for most of the cast, shooting far from home in a little Swedish town felt a bit isolating, too. “I’m here in Sweden,” Nicole said in an interview during filming, “and it’s a little strange. But I’m really glad I came because it’s kind of nice to be doing something unpredictable.” That isolation and unpredictability inspired a great deal of trust between the cast and the director.
Together, the empty stage, the minimal props, the intensely emotional performances, serve to bring von Trier’s vision to life. And they make “Dogville” a film that challenges audiences to think long after the film ends.