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Lars von Trier - Dogme 95 rules
Lars von Trier – Dogme 95 rules

Dogme 95 (English: Dogma 95) is a filmmaking movement that wanted to go against the commercial, high budget Cinema. Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg were the founders of this movement. They both wrote its manifesto and its “Vow of Chastity”. According to Trier and Vinterberg, Cinema should enter its second century as a medium which allows directors to be artists again. Low budget films are the ones wherein filmmakers can express their ideas, outside of the status quo of the big production companies and Hollywood. Vinterberg and Trier claim that they wrote the manifesto in 45 minutes.

To begin with, Dogme 95 tried to mimic the famous 1954 article by François Truffault “A Certain Tendency in French Cinema”. For the Dogme 95 film directors, their manifesto was a rescue action. Individualism was not part of Dogme 95, because Cinema is a collaborative procedure. Moreover, they were opposing classical dramaturgy. Finally, they were against genre movies.

Every film director who wanted to be part of Dogme 95, had to swear to submit to the following set of 10 rules:

The Vow of Chastity

  • Shooting must be 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).
  • 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.)
  • The camera must be hand-held. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted.
  • The film must be in color. 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.)
  • Optical work and filters are forbidden.
  • The film must not contain superficial action. (Murders, weapons, etc. must not occur.)
  • Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden. (That is to say that the film takes place here and now.)
  • Genre movies are not acceptable.
  • The film format must be Academy 35 mm.
  • The director should not receive credits.

Finally, they had to refrain from personal taste. The supreme goal was to force the truth out of their characters and settings.

Was Dogme 95 a successfull movement?

Taking into consideration all these restrictions, it is not strange that this movement lasted only 10 years. It ended in 2005, with a total number of 35 films. However, and this may sound weird, but both Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg have only one film each in this list! Thomas Vinterberg’s “Festen” (The Celebration) and Trier’s “Idiots” consist the first two films of the Dogme 95 catalogue. Only the director Juan Pinzas has submitted three films in this catalogue. Other notable directors in this catalogue are: Susanne Bier, Harmony Korine, Jean-Marc Barr. You can find and explore the full list here.

Needless to say, Dogme 95 directors were shooting on Tape or DVD-R Camcorders. Nowadays, although several filmmakers have tried to implement Dogme 95 rules, the technological advancements changed drastically the aesthetic criteria of the movement. The founders of this movement, Trier and Vinterberg, have taken different paths during their career. However, they use from time to time Dogme 95 elements to their films.

Having said all the above, we cannot give a definite answer whether it was successful as a movement. From one side, it was a radical approach in the beginning of the second century of Cinema. On the other side, even the founders of Dogme 95 couldn’t stay faithful to their own manifesto.

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