"Dogville" is America
"Before I go to prison, the America that I know is a beautiful country and Americans are such beautiful, kind, humble people. When I go to prison, I see there is a different face of the United States of America." This is what Javaid Iqbal, on the telephone from Faisalabad, Pakistan, told Nina Bernstein of the NYT. Bernstein's article this morning, 2 Men Charge Abuse in Arrests After 9/11 Terror Attack, is another tale of horrible abuses -- degrading, painful and life-harming -- by American officials. Iqbal and Ehab Elmaghraby, an Egyptian, were both living and working in New York legally and happily when their lives were interrupted by "federal agents in an anti-terror sweep." Other federal officials ultimately deported them even though they were cleared of the original charges-- deemed guilty because of their national origins and religions, that is, because they were outsiders.

In the powerful fable "Dogville," which we saw last night, Nicole Kidman plays an outsider who comes to the remote mountain hamlet of Dogville while on the run from gangsters. The Dogvilleans at first protect her grudgingly, then come to like her and even begin to depend on her services. But when outside events ("Wanted" posters tacked up by the sheriff on a rare visit to the town) make them think their generosity might entail some risk, they begin exploiting and punishing her horribly, including regular rapes, all the while regarding themselves as righteous. The violent ending comes as an immense relief to the entire audience, but mixed with the relief must be a disturbing recognition: this must be the kind of relief that so many in the Muslim world felt when the Twin Towers fell.

Don't see "Dogville" if you want to sleep peacefully snuggled in a Dogvillean cocoon of righteousness. The acting is too good, and the bare-bones stagecraft never lets your mind drift from horror of the story to the scenery. Dogville official website

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