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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.
A fascinating look at racism, slavery (both political and psychological), freedom and (the potential flaws of) idealism. It's a provocative piece of film-making, but is so explicit about its message and tries to cover so much that it can feel muddled at times (also it lacks the stylistic mastery of its superior prequel, Dogville). Still it really got me thinking and like Dogville it is manipulative in the best way making you reflect on the reactions it prompts from you early on in the film.
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.
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.
Unlike Dogville's slow build-up to chaos, Manderlay simmers for about two hours, and then von Trier goes straight for the jugular. Not as polished as Dogville, but the conclusion is just as uncomfortable as Dogville's, even if the events leading to it aren't as compelling here.
Once again LVT stacks the deck with an absurd situation that makes pretty much everyone look like an asshole. He opens up complex issues here, ones that are worth pondering. The scenario isn't TOO far-fetched and allows for some intriguing facets. However Lars provides no answers, nor anything resembling an answer. Instead he wraps it up with a few cheap shots at America. It's like he just can't help himself. Putting aside LVT's childish jabs, it's a pretty good movie.
Not a classic from von Trier, but not terrible either. Although not living up to the previous dogville, it has a certain charm. You certainly feel von Trier is trying to get a message across, but quite what that is, I'm not sure I know. It is thought provoking, and a lot easier to watch (in terms of turn-your-head-away violence) than some of his offerings, but doesn't pack the punch that I've come to expect.