Works for me!
i haven’t seen in Dogville in a few years (though today is Von Trier’s birthday so maybe i’ll watch it tonight) but from what i remember, the town functioned under the ideals of Marxism until Grace arrived. The town itself was poor, but the denizens of the town were in many ways naive to the world surrounding them (sure they were aware and affected by the depression, but other than that, none of them seemed to care about the goings-on outside of Dogville), purely confining to their town, and governing themselves. No one came to visit them, and no one left (save the character who would go to town for supplies/the whore-house once a month [i think that was how long?]). Then Grace showed up and unsettled the balance. Perhaps the town was corrupt to begin with, but it’s corruption didn’t come to fruition until Grace showed up. Grace, with her lush lifestyle and lavish attire obviously symbolized the wealth that could be acquired by capitalism, thus tainting the town’s ‘marxist’ aesthetic. Von Trier is a pretty profound communist already (see: The Idiots) so it wouldn’t surprise me if he was making this connection with Dogville, however i’m not assuming he is; to me, it’s just one way it could be interpreted.
“His selective attention is ideological….”
More like “Demagogical”.
Hmm. I’d hardly regard Von Trier as a deep thinker about Marxism. Rather he’s picked up a couple of stereotypical ideas and used them playfully. It’s a wholly superficial treatment of Marxism, though. It doesn’t make him a Marxist any more than his puerile remarks last year make him a Nazi.
Oddly enough Marx was born in Trier.
Blood for Dracula
What, not a single comment on Makavejev or Wajda or Jancso or any of the other superb filmmakers from E Europe. They all gew up under Marxist/Stalinist regimes, and all their efforts were significantly influenced by that dogma. And how about Ballad Of A Soldier or The Cranes Are Flying from the Soviet Union? There are so many.
Three more movies:
- Modern times is about the marxists concepts of alienation and exploitation of the worker in the capitalist system. The final speech of ‘The great dictator’ is inspired in Marx, too… Well, Chaplin was socialist, other films depicts his views about the world.
- Spartacus. A film about revolution of the opressed class against the rule class. It’s a Dalton Trumbo’s script.
- Z, by Costa-Gavras.
- I think that Fantastic Mr. Fox is slightly marxist (the movie at least, I did’t read the book), even with a raised fist salute.
And to add to the already mentioned Loach, Eisenstein, Rossellini, Antonioni, De Sica, Godard, von Trier, etc. I propose the works of Robert Guédiguian.
Star Trek for me is more of a depiction of a “post-scarcity society” which has been a common sub-genera of science fiction. While Marxism, some would argue, is a secularized re-imagining of eschatology. More so then just a critique of capitalism, Marxist dialectical philosophy predicts that history is marching towards an ultimate conclusion where all class conflicts will be reconciled.
So Winnie the Pooh and the 100 Acre Wood?
Thanks Konrad. That’s the most devastating and withering dismissal of a failed philosophy I have ever seen.
Humor is the extremist Marxist’s kryptonite, I guess.
Bananas"All children under the age of 12 are now 12", Love and Death – Woody Allen & Dianne Keaton do what they do best,, in their continuing dialogue throughout the film.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being,
@Doctor Lemonglow: I think it is too simplistic to say that ‘Can Dialectics Break Bricks?’ is a dismissal of Marxism as a ‘failed philosophy’. This movie (although I haven’t seen in it in its entirety) came at a time in France when the established institutions of ‘official’ leftism, such as the French Communist Party (PCF) and the Confederation General du Travail (the trade union affiliated with the PCF, the CGT) came under a lot of scrutiny from other leftists. This was largely due to how these organisations dealt with the events of May ‘68. The PCF derided students as irresponsible and ’adventurist’. In opposition to the millenarianism and radicalism of many leftists participating in the upheaval of 1968, the PCF upheld the ultimately conservative demand for mere wage increases. Never did they call for the abolition of capitalist society; a revolutionary demand, as opposed to a reformist one.
One of the currents of Marxist that came to the fore most prominently during and leading up to 1968 (and completely opposed to the conservatism of the PCF et al) was Guy Debord’s Situationist International. I don’t know the full extent of the philosophy etc. associated with this, but this current really emphasised the role of culture and art in capitalist society. Debord outlines this concept of ‘recuperation’, where previously radical, subversive cultural symbols or icons are are reproduced en-masse as commodities. It is capitalism’s mechanism for making subversion non-threatening. The prime example is the image of Che Guevara — he is a meaningless symbol on a cigerette lighter or t-shirt, not the revolutionary who toppled Cuba’s fascist government. The reverse side of the theory is ‘detournement’, which is also a verb: ‘Can Dialectics Break Bricks?’ is an example of ‘detourned’ film. The influence of situationist thought is heavy in this movie. It takes a form of culture which is usually vapid, that is usually a reproducible commodity (a martial arts film), and re-appropriates it for not only a critique of capitalism’s dominant cultural forms, but also the poverty of the PCF, trade-unionism etc.
Secondly, as a general response to this topic, I would challenge strongly the notion that Von Trier is some kind of Marxist, or that ‘Dogville’ somehow embodies Marxist ideas. @Brentos: I don’t understand at all how the small town operates ‘under the ideals of Marxism’. If anything it is reverse. This movie was attacked when it first came out for its purported ‘anti-Americanism’ (which I think is moot anyway). The small town may be interpreted as a as making a point about the dangers of provincialism. Those who attacked the film for being anti-American may see the town as a supposedly represented the USA. However, as Von Trier himself says, the Dogville represents the kind of narrow-mindedness that such an enclosed lifestyle brings; that it breeds ignorance and hatred or something like that. Von Trier said, the message was indeed “evil can arise anywhere, as long as the situation is right.” I would the strongest link that can be made between ‘Dogville’ and Marxism, very broadly, is the interpretation of the former with reference to Brecht’s ideas on distanciation; Brecht’s ideas on theatre are influenced by Marxism greatly. ’Dogville’’s jump-cuts, breaking of the fourth wall, lack of conventional set, division of the film into chapters etc. etc. all draw attention to the film as a film, therefore creating a critical distance between the audience and the movie. However, rather than such Brechtian forms being used with an explictly political rationale (as Brecht would have used them), I would say they are more stylistic experimentations for Von Trier.
In response to the opening post, two films off the top of my head (haven’t seen either though): ‘La Commune (Paris, 1871)’ by Peter Watkins. Also, ‘The Working Class Goes to Heaven’, made in the early ’70s in Italy; obviously a time of massive political unrest. Here is a clip which looks pretty intense: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXwqaSAKsUE
John Lanchester has a good, informed essay on Marx today at the London Review of Books web site:
One anti-Marxist (or at least anti-Soviet) film that hasn’t been mentioned is “East-West” from 1999. Not a great film, but it does have Catherine Deneuve in it.
Here is one of which I have been trying to obtain a copy — “Marx: The Video (A Politics of Revolting Bodies),” a 27-min film directed by Laura Kipnis — so far, to no avail…. (please let me know if you know the way to watch it without paying a thousand dollars for a library copy…)
“Lucia” by Humberto Solas.
Ah, Lucia is a superb film.
My list Leftist and Liberal Films
It is incredibly hard to find a solution to the problem of capitalism that doesn’t involve having to defend itself through force against the vicious forces inevitably unleashed to bring down Leftist governments. Leftist/“Marxist” states haven’t existed in a vacuum but with the Soviet Revolution there was an attempt of foreign powers including UK to bring down the new govt by armed intervention. First the corrupt state had to be overthrown by force- Capital doesn’t give up its power meekly, controlled as it is by greedy selfish people- but also the violent backlash and continuing international competition seeking the downfall of Marxism had to be resisted. Hardly surprising that a paranoid violent tyrant like Stalin emerged. There is also the problem of power corrupting and people most ambitious for power being corrupt anyway. And lessons to be remembered like the overthrow of Allende’s democratically elected regime (as with so many other regimes disliked by the West)
With the power of the media and the rich, even with massive dissatisfaction with Capitalism- certainly the greedy consumerism, inequality and exploitation by fat cats that has brought us to the current crisis- the people can easily be misled (by the billionaire media tycoons and bigots) into dangerous and false solutions, like increasing xenophobia and scapegoating of the less rather than more powerful. Fascism rears its ugly head in conflict with movement to the Left. Working class and marginalised, betrayed by the likes of Blair, can be easy fodder for racist and divisive propaganda.
Green and peaceful movements that challenge the whole system are ignored as much as possible by the media- with its ludicrous propaganda that there is no alternative to austerity cuts (still so-called economics “experts” on TV who didn’t see the Credit Crunch coming are blind to the obvious) but also that now is not the time to worry about the environment. The daily obsession is the growth figures instead- yet you can still have a better society without short-term growth, as through redistribution most can be better off, and surely a compassionate more equal society is vastly preferable to a harsh, greedy, selfish, grasping, wasteful, warlike and destructive one. Rightwing free market, deregulated capitalism of Thatcher, Reagan and Bush has failed, thanks to its own insatiable greed. It seems half the people of USA and UK waddle, thanks to the mass obesity i predicted back in the 80s, the jails are full, Big Brother surveillance increases, public sector workers are disposed of as worthless in a commodity-obsessed economy. Capitalism depends on people spending on things they don’t need, being brainwashed and enslaved by a must-have, wasteful culture. Technological advances have had benefits of course, but could have made for a much happier, more united world, instead of being used so often to serve the interests of the few.
I like films by John Pilger, e.g The War on Democracy. He doesn’t hide his own political stance, but makes a powerful case against the true repulsive nature of imperialist Capitalism, a side the mainstream media prefer us not to question- the media which have been largely instrumental in creating this mess, and continue to block the better solutions..
The War on Democray, in full, on youtube, is embedding disabled, but here is another sickening film
hmm – why do some people sneer at marxism whilst re-iterating sheep-like the grand narratives of capitalism i.e. nothing can change human nature blah blah. But the humans are essentially greedy/unchangeable/selfish/tyrannical argument is sooo easy to disprove.
Anyway sorry if any of these have already been posted but I’d add not just the few of ken loach films mentioned, but all of them I’d say as they all represent working class people in a way that challenges existing representations and narratives (which support capitalism) They almost all give a nod to class as the main system which divides us (that’s marx’s economic class not the liberal (ive got shit/good taste) version of class). They almost all depict working class people triumphing through struggle, something which marxists believe to be possible.
Hmm – " I am Cuba?"
Italian Neo-realist films – Bicycle Thieves etc
I’ll try to some back with more – I’m about to enrol on a film studies masters so this thread has been very helpful!!
Not thinking of becoming a marxist? Why on earth not? : ) It’s the only thing which makes sense in this consumer greed-driven advanced capitalist system we’re in. As a great marxist, writer friend of mine said recently – ‘looking forward it’s gonna be barbarism or socialism’. Seeing how the toff/banker/corporation classes have been behaving across the globe (they don’t give a shit) i’m choosing socialism from now on!!
ps are some people using ‘communism’ and marxism’ as mutually interchangeable terms? If so, why?
oh and in a marxism system i’d be able to work for the community good (instead of for capitalist greedy 1%) and then make art – now that sounds like a life worth living!
I would disagree with the assessment of BICYCLE THIEVES as a Marxist work. I’ll give only a few reasons here, but my article on the subject can be found in CINEMA JOURNA: “Bicycle Thieves: A Re-reading,” Cinema Journal 21 (Spring 1982): 2-13. It was also reprinted in: Vittorio De Sica: An Anthology of Criticism, edited by Stephen Snyder and Howard Curle (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000), 160-171. (You MAY be able to find these on-line, especially if you have access to a good library.)
1. The protagonist is not technically from the working class; he is what Marxists call a lumpenproletariat since he has been unemployed for 2 years.
2. He does NOT “triumph through his struggle”; indeed, at the end he steals from another member of the working class and ends up worse than when he started.
3. He almost always chooses “solitude over solidarity” and rarely tries to join ranks with his comrades. For instance, he tries to sneak ahead on the long line for a bus, he sneaks ahead on a long line at the seeress’s flat, he disrupts the church service, etc.
4. There are actual PCI meetings shown in the film and the communists ignore Riicci’s plight.
5. The Riccis live in housing built through U.S. Marshall Plan aid and UN funds, money that flowed into Italy just prior to the 1948 elections, what historians call “the AMERICAN election in Italy.” The implicit threat was that if the communist-socialist popular front won the election, the Marshall Plan aid would be revoked.
6. The film shows the poor hurting each other (a poverty-stricken epileptic young man steals the bike); the system is not blamed exclusively for Italy’s troubles. That young man, by the way, wears a German cap (mentuioned 2-3 times in the film), suggesting that it was THE GERMANS, and not Italy’s homegrown fascism, that caused the war and its postwar poverty.
True, there are some scenes that depict the police and the Catholic Church as uncaring, and that fits some aspects of the Marxist critique of capitalism (and its social democratic variant), but there are also enough scenes that indicate that the individual and the family are the cornerstones of society, not the collective.
yes I think you’re right re BT
can I offer instead
Battle of Algiers (which has also probably been mentioned)
ps do you know of any marxist masters courses? Mine most defintely isn’t!!
@Rosa: If you’re referring to graduate-level college film classes from a Marxist perspective, they are not usually labelled as such in university catalogs. More often than not, the course title is Film History, Film Theory, or Special Topics in Film Analysis. Of course, occasionally, some titles are more overt: Soviet Silent Cinema, Ideological Perspectives on Contemporary International Film, or History of Chinese Cinema.
More often than not, though, it’s the viewpoint of THE INSTRUCTOR that dictates the ideological approach of a course. And to determine that, you might want to look into the professor’s writings, syllabi (including the reading list), and affiliations. Some of this can be found on his/her Webpage or through Google Scholar/Google Books.
Sometimes a professor can structure a course around Marxist principles, even if it has a vague, nondescript title such as Introduction to Graduate Film Studies or Film Aesthetics.