Dir. Thomas Vinterberg.Denmark/Germany/France/UK. 101 min.
Dogme may be no more butif Dear Wendy is any indication, the artistic collaboration of itsfounders Thomas Vinterberg and Lars Von Trier is very much alive. An elaboratespoof of US politics and culture, the new film is a continuation of the themesraised in Von Trier's Dogville, an acerbic satire of America's foundingmythologies and military adventurism - the rightness of the right to bear armsand the notion that one's beliefs, if strongly held, are justification enoughfor unilateral action. Literally a love letter to the gun, its overt politicalassault is brilliantly cloaked in a boyish adventure story that is part-PeterPan, part-western delivered in ironic dead-pan.
A rich life on the festivalcircuit is assured and international audiences who follow Vinterberg and VonTrier will consider this a must-see. The big question potential US buyers willbe asking themselves is this: is the film too clever, too subtle to registerwith an audience large enough to justify the asking price Trust will be seekingto help recoup a Euros 7m budget' And if it does register, will it alienate USaudiences more than entertain them'
Set on a single villagesquare in a fictional south-eastern US mining community - the film was shot onsets in Germany and Denmark - it follows four mild-mannered teenagers who don'tfit in with the town's mining machismo, and believe themselves the objects ofthe miners' scorn. The key word is believe; for nothing in this town, otherthan the entirely silent miners, bears any semblance to reality.
Dick (Bell), the teenage sonof a miner, can't bear to go underground and so works at the local grocers withanother outsider, Stevie (Webber). Sent out to buy a birthday gift, he bringshome a toy gun only to learn from Stevie that it is a small but very realweapon. Although he believes that "guns make the world a bad place," Dick isrepelled and fascinated by this potent pearl-handled beauty; spurred by hisfriend's secret knowledge of firearms, he visits an abandoned mine shaft forsome target practice.
For Dick, it's love at firstshot. The feeling, it seems, is mutual. The gun loves Dick; even blindfolded hecan hit a bull's eye. Intoxicated by this union, he draws together the town'sother outsiders, each of whom takes a gun as a totem and gives it a name;together they form a secret club called The Dandies. Setting up camp in themine, dressing themselves in outfits worthy of Lewis Carroll, they steepthemselves in the lore of guns, and the science of ballistics and exit wounds.But the club has one cardinal rule: never draw the weapon lest it awaken andfulfil its destiny.
The viewer can see wherethis is headed yet the exposition is far from predictable. Indeed, some mightcall it insane. For the boys and one girl see their little square as aDarwinian jungle ruled by fear, where a grandmother dare not step out to visita friend across the road for coffee. When one grandmother lets it be known shewants to do just that, the crusading Dandies vow to make her mission a success.All evidence to the contrary, their world is a scary place and these pacifistswith guns are about to set things right. And with every intention of keepingtheir guns in their holsters. But as the gang finds out, all guns -- not justsome guns -- are deceitful.
Gorgeously photographed byAnthony Dod Mantle (who did Dogville and Vinterberg's It's All AboutLove) the film cleverly blends a frontier style and modern US streetscape.The production design echoes the theatrical blocking of Dogville withoverhead schematics sectioning the small square into regions that impart anurban milieu not unlike gang-rule sections of south-central Los Angeles.
Bell, who also acts as thefilm's laconic narrator, leads a first-rate cast who rise to the challenge ofmaking these bizarre characters convincing, even plausible. In a bravuraclimax, Vinterberg manages to make the viewer care that these well-meaningfools are helping a grandmother cross the street for coffee. More impressive,he imbues these inanimate objects with mystical power. Wendy, it turns out, isthe ultimate femme fatale.
Prod co: Nimbus-Zentropa
Int'l sales: Trust Film Sales +45 2060 5050
Prod: Sisse Graum Jorgensen
Scr: Lars Von Trier
DoP: Anthony Dod Mantle
Prod des: Karl Juliusson
Ed: Mikkel E. G. Nielsen
Mus: Benjamin Wallfisch
Main cast: Jamie Bell, Bill Pullman, Michael Angarano, DansoGordon, Chris Owen, Alison Pill