Still puzzled about the whole Dogme film craze? Want to discover what it’s all about? A good place to start is Jack Stevenson’s new book Dogme Uncut. The book provides an in-depth history of the Dogme 95 film movement, while providing coverage of most of its films and filmmakers involved. From here you can decide on whether to wade further into the Dogme pool, or run for shore to pick up something antiseptic at one of your local Blockbusters.
We recently spoke with Jack Stevenson about his latest book.
Why a book on Dogme? Are you a fan of the film movement?
I wrote about Dogme because my previous book about Lars von Trier, written for the British Film Institute and published in fall of 2002, led me into the subject, and because I live in Denmark and felt I could get to the bottom of it. I like some of the Dogme films very much, but I cannot say I am a fan of the movement – some of the films I liked and some I despise. I find it interesting more as a story and as a way into the functioning of the Danish Film Industry in general where directors are often given something very rare – total creative freedom. Also, as we all know, Dogme has been mightily hyped and I wanted to stick some pins in a few balloons. The task cannot be left to Danish critics who are often blinded by patriotism. But I am not attacking Dogme – I believe it is absolutely essential that Dogme exists. I tried to be objective but opinionated – and certainly no cheerleader.
How did you research for this book?
I learned Danish a few years ago which enabled me to troll through years of clippings and magazines and books, and I kept involved in the debate on other levels, studying the films, talking to Danes, what was on TV, not to mention that a good friend of mine is one of the actors in “The Idiots.” In Denmark it is impossible to AVOID the story. The pieces of the story were already out there, thousands of interviews and other nuggets and flotsam, it was just a case of assembling the pieces and weaving it together.
Were you able to interview any of the filmmakers for the book?
No, I did not interview any of the filmmakers – after reading hundreds of interviews and profiles, etc etc., I felt there was nothing new they could tell me. And personally, I had no desire to meet them. I felt it was more like detective work, and a detective rarely goes up to the person he is following and introduces himself. But there is a real celebrity fetish involved in film: everyone says to me, “So you know Lars von Trier, right?” And I tell them Hell no! If I ever met him it would be like meeting a hologram. I have no desire. I once had a correspondence with Charles Bukowski in the early 80ss when I was living in a cheap hotel in L.A. – not half an hour from his place. But it never occurred to me to meet him in person. It’s not my style. And if you get on good with the filmmakers, you lose objectivity, something no one in Denmark has because it is such a tiny milieu and they all go to the same parties. In a sense I wanted to be an outsider on this story. Well I am an outsider, certainly – I’m an American and I do not work in the industry.
Is this book geared more for the lovers of Dogme, or for people looking to find out just what all the hub-bub is about, or both?
I think the book is geared for BOTH groups! It’s not specifically for Dogme freaks, but I think for them it is a useful book, too. I think the main strength of the book is reporting on Dogme from the Danish perspective, which involves reckoning the Danish mentality and explaining how films are made in Denmark. The question still intrigues – why so many good films from this tiny country? Is it something in the water?
Is Dogme dead?
More Dogme films are being made as we speak but that is almost irrelevant. On one hand, yes, Dogme has been vastly hyped, and on the other hand, as long as Hollywood continues to make shitty films and big European studios produce so much quasi-arthouse bullshit, Dogme will live, if only as a hope.
Whether it is dead or not, it is still NEEDED!
Read more about Dogme in Jack Stevenson’s Dogme Uncut.