The chapter device used in Dogville is astute, considering the majority of people going in to see it would be well aware that the whole affair rocks in just under three hours and probably won’t be a bundle of laughs. In giving us a bill of fare as we go along, it marks the time nicely, splitting it into almost Saturday morning picture serial form. It also flags the ups and subsequent downs of the community to prepare us. Certainly the lack of naturalism in the sparse set removes much of the visceral horror in what transpires, but leaves us with a potentially more disquieting intellectual understanding of the events.

Even more effective is John Hurt’s Jackanory like narration. In reducing the storyline to fairy tale like simplicity it suggests a much more Manichean ideology than Hollywood allows these days. As a piece of anti-American criticism it can be read in a number of ways. Maybe Dogville represents America, eager to help as long as it can exact its own eventually worse price. Or maybe Nicole Kidman’s Grace is more of a representative, in her final role as over the top avenging angel. The final philosophical discussion on arrogance does not allow us to decide. Perhaps it is that both Grace and Dogville represent facets of America (or humanity) who will eventually destroy each other.

The film clearly wants us to think about these things, and its dark humour seems to run in opposition to its tone. And yet the boardgame like set, as much like a Cluedo board than anything else, is at its heart playful. I expected to hate it, instead it engaged me thoroughly. A willingness to use a number of methods to get across its ideas, and no obvious conclusions. For all of its grit and formalism, it is warm, funny and oddly inviting. Unlike Dogville itself.