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Open Hearts


No, it's not that film about heart surgery that played last weekend at Full Frame. This digital video feature comes from Denmark, courtesy of director Susanne Bier. We haven't seen it yet, but we do hear that it's a fairly self-conscious melodrama involving two couples who split and recombine in the wake of a terrible car accident.

Of particular interest to cinephiles is that Open Hearts is the latest product of the Dogme 95 movement. Dogme 95, for better or worse, is the most important aesthetic movement to emerge in the film world in decades. Wryly calling their tenets "vows of chastity," Dogme filmmakers are committed to stripping their films of the excesses that are so ubiquitous in movies that we don't think to question them. Such banned practices include the use of flashback, slow-motion, special effects and soundtrack music. Furthermore, Dogme films must take place in the present and they must be shot on video with hand-held cameras, without the assistance of artificial light. (These guys won't be making any Matrix sequels.)

There is, however, one particular vow that seems to ask a little too much of even the most fervent ideologues: A true Dogme filmmaker shall never, ever attach his or her name to the film. Since this rule is always broken, we know that Lars von Trier (Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark) is the most famous filmmaker associated with the movement. However, other filmmakers have made films that have conformed more closely to the rules, including such hits as Thomas Vinterberg's Celebration, Lone Scherfig's Italian for Beginners and Kristian Levring's The King is Alive.

If the early reviews are any indications, Susanne Bier's Open Hearts may join the list of Dogme hits.

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