What Does Dogme95 Think of Martin Scorsese?

By on November 10, 2019

Because the debate Martin Scorsese started with his criticism of superhero movies not being true “cinema” has been such big and unavoidable news, it got me to thinking about the fuss being made over the anti-aging process used in “The Irishman.”  Then I remembered back on how his 2011 “Hugo” won five Oscars, all technical.  Then I remembered back to the Lars Van Trier-led Dogme95, which strived for as natural a film making process and result as possible (no special lighting or filters, etc.).  Here are several articles about Dogme95 if you are not familiar:


To save you a few mouse clicks or finger pokes, here are the Dogme95 goals and rules (taken from the Wikipedia page):

Goals and rules

The goal of the Dogme collective is to “purify” filmmaking by refusing expensive and spectacular special effects, post-production modifications and other technical gimmicks. The filmmakers concentrate on the story and the actors’ performances. They claim this approach may better engage the audience, as they are not “alienated or distracted by overproduction”. To this end, von Trier and Vinterberg produced ten rules to which any Dogme film must conform. These rules, referred to as the “Vow of Chastity”, are as follows:[1]

  1. Shooting must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in (if a particular prop is necessary for the story, a location must be chosen where this prop is to be found).
  2. The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa. (Music must not be used unless it occurs where the scene is being shot.)
  3. The camera must be hand-held. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted.
  4. The film must be in colour. Special lighting is not acceptable. (If there is too little light for exposure the scene must be cut or a single lamp be attached to the camera.)
  5. Optical work and filters are forbidden.
  6. The film must not contain superficial action. (Murders, weapons, etc. must not occur.)
  7. Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden. (That is to say that the film takes place here and now.)
  8. Genre movies are not acceptable.
  9. The film format must be Academy 35 mm.
  10. The director must not be credited.

They may as well move #10 to #1 because it seems like it would be a deal breaker for some/most film makers and there’d be no need to even look at the rest of the list. I’d love to know what the Dogme95 purists think of Scorsese’s current EFX-reliant film making style (or repeated need to return to gangsters and violence or glorifying repellant characters, wages-of-sin morality or not), especially considering how giddy Scorsese was at winning all those Hugo technical Oscars (and none relative to the film’s substance or performances).  How easy it would be for Dogme95 proponents to criticize Scorsese for not meeting THEIR criteria for what cinema is, and they would have more substantial backing than what Scorsese has for the superhero movies.  The Dogme95 folks have not said anything because, despite their own take on cinema, they understand that there should be no bounds within the universe of film making and therein lies the medium’s beauty, power and limitless potential.  Storytelling is storytelling. There is no genre I will avoid if a movie is good and none I will race to mindlessly regardless of quality. I know people who consider themselves open-minded yet refuse to watch sci-fi or animated features. Their loss.

While Dogme95 proponents may seem implicitly judgmental, but they do not project their standards critically on other movie makers. Not surprisingly, there are not many Dogme95 movies that follow the rules to the letter and several of the Dogme95 directors admit to “cheating” to get the effect/impact/shot they want.  I’m not sure if it negates their existence but it still doesn’t preclude Dogme95 from being judgmental.  Here is the list of the 21 Dogme95 films (down from an original list of 35 after scrutinizing for strict adherence to its rules):


Actually, in our current climate, nothing precludes anyone from being judgmental about anything or anyone.  And I just joined that party.


November 10, 2019

If you are not familiar with Lars Van Trier’s thoughtful films, I recommend the top three listed on his IMDB page:

Dancer in the Dark (2000) – A blind Björk, a blue-collar-manual-labor Catherine Deneueve and a downward spiraling tragedy.  Like all his movies, you have to be in the mood for it.

Melancholia (2011) – Kirsten Dunst has said she feels underappreciated for her work and — I’m paraphrasing here — attributes it to her averageness.  I think that’s why I never paid close attention to her acting.  She was one of the best things about “Hidden Figures” for her subtlety and wonderful for everything in the second season of “Fargo.”  She gets parts in significant productions and does extremely well with them.  I don’t think that’s underappreciation.  Now we have Kirsten Dunst in a Lars Van Trier film.  This movie plays out like two concurrent genres and the oddness of the pairing gives it a unique energy.  It’s a fresh take on sci-fi drama, a categorization that doesn’t do the film justice but I can’t think of what else to call it. I was so floored I watched it a second time a few days later.  It’s like a dream.

Breaking the Waves (1996) – Needing to be in the mood for this intensely heavy story goes double.  A phenomenal (and Oscar-nominated, the only nomination of any Van Trier movie) Emily Watson.

About Dan Walker

As part of an Air Force family, I went to elementary school in Great Falls, MT, junior high in Cheyenne, WY and high school and college in the San Francisco Bay Area, graduating from San Francisco State University with a degree in business. I was fortunate to have worked for great companies in Silicon Valley (Oracle Corp) and Hollywood (Miramax Films). I also lived and worked (primarily in financial services, which has no great companies) for eight years in Manhattan, New York City. I now reside in New York's beautiful Hudson Valley.

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