This is a gently mischievous manifesto agreed in October 1995 by a founding group of four Danish film directors, among them Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg. They asserted it was a “rescue operation to counter certain tendencies in film today” — they aimed to break away from what they saw as the stifling conventions of film making that created barriers between actor and audience. They agreed to create films according to ten self-denying precepts. Among others, these lay down that films must be shot entirely on location with no outside props; the camera must be hand-held; there must be no artificial lighting and all sound must be recorded on location; action must take place in the here and now and everything seen on screen must actually take place (so ruling out, for example, scenes of murder). Dogme is still mainly a term of European art-house cinema, but it’s becoming known through feature films made under these rules, such as Lars von Trier’s Idiots and Thomas Vinterberg’s Festen (The Celebration), which won the Special Jury Prize at Cannes in 1998. A third film, Mifune, has just been released. The concept has been gently derided by many critics, some of whom sound puzzled why anybody would shackle themselves with such rules. Jonathan Romney in the Guardian said it was “playful puritanism”, and it has also been called “tongue-in-cheek provocation”. The name is the French word for dogma, and is pronounced the same way.
Dogme helped the film stay as close to reality as possible. Because of this style, there were no props or fake blood, so when it came to physical fights, everyone had to take one for the team.
Toronto Sun, Feb. 1999
Rules are there to be broken and for this third outing under the Dogme 95 banner, director Kragh-Jacobsen has embraced the sacred vow of cinematic chastity with anything but monastic rigour.
Empire Online, Oct. 1999