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Summary: Manderlay is a plantation where a group of people are living as if slavery hadn't been abolished 70 years earlier. Upon leaving Dogville in 1933, Grace and her father head far south to the state of Alabama where they arrive upon the bizarre place.
I would rather let a mule take a dump down my throat than watch this heinous train wreck again. Boring, idiotically written with nothing resembling a real emotion evoked at any point, awkwardly staged, acted, and shot, boring, poorly made with little to no craftsmanship or production value, meandering, boring, long, bloated, and I must again say boring. Fuck this movie, fuck Lars von Trier. I hated it. The longest 139 minutes of my fucking life.
It doesn't pack the emotional punch that Dogville does. We go into it with a certain expectation. This diminishes the power of the turn near the end of the film, which was already pretty weak to begin with.
Like a retread of Dogville only it's far less effective and rarely transcends its simple provocation. The racial emphasis seems somewhat misguided, perhaps even misinformed, but there are a few memorable scenes that make it worth viewing, especially for Von Trier fans.
Obviously not close to "Dogville" (Kidman is out of the picture, and the novelty of the Brechtian approach is now long-gone), but still a complex, difficult film that is unafraid to pose questions about democracy.
Although "Manderlay" never reaches the emotional highs of "Dogville", its carefully structured narrative, well-written dialogue, thematic intrigue and moral implications make it a highly compelling watch. Howard doesn't match Kidman's nuance, but she's a solid substitute. The overall product, however, is hampered by the underwhelming ending, which, unlike the monumental finale of "Dogville", is emotionally muted and marks an obvious attempt to underline the message clearly implied by that point.