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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 May, 2003, 19:19 GMT 20:19 UK
Kidman film sparks festival buzz

By Helen Bushby
BBC News Online entertainment staff in Cannes

Nicole Kidman is returning to Cannes on Monday with her latest film, Dogville, directed by former Palme d'Or winner Lars Von Trier.

It is proving to be one of the festival's most highly-anticipated films, not least because both Von Trier and Kidman have had some recent high-profile successes.

Lauren Bacall
Lauren Bacall plays a character called Ma Ginger

Kidman, whose film Moulin Rouge opened Cannes in 2001, won an Oscar this year for her portrayal of Virginia Woolf in The Hours, while Von Trier won Cannes' prestigious Palme d'Or in 2000 for Dancer in the Dark, which starred the singer Bjork.

Dogville is also provoking intrigue because of the way it was filmed - it has just one stark set - a simple theatre stage with few props and chalk marks on the floor.

It tells the story of Grace, a beautiful fugitive on the run from gangsters who arrives in the isolated township of Dogville in the US Rockies.

The town agrees to hide her but she has to pay a high price in return - during some scenes she ends up wearing a chain, collar and bell, which Kidman said she found tough.

The film has just one set - a simple theatre stage

She told Kirsten Jacobsen, the author of Dogville Diary, which documents the making of the film: "The chain, the collar, the bell... Yes they were very disturbing to me.

"I became very lethargic and also sort of very emotional when I was doing it. I didn't like it, I hated putting it on. The collar... ugh!"

Kidman's co-star, Beautiful Mind star Paul Bettany, told Ms Jacobsen he felt "very trapped at first".

"The stage felt really depressing as a space - it just felt like a box."

Perception of America

But by the end of shooting the film, he said he had learned "so much" from Von Trier, adding: "I know that Lars is very clearly a genius. He is a very bright man."

Von Trier is known for being a challenging film maker, although there appears to be no shortage of stars willing to work with him.

The cast of Dogville includes US actress Lauren Bacall and Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgard, who starred in Von Trier's disturbing film Breaking the Waves.

Kidman's character Grace plays a fugitive running away from gangsters

Von Trier said he set the film in the US despite having never been there - it is based on his perception of America.

"The idea behind Grace's treatment at the hands of the townspeople was that if you present yourself to others as a gift, then that is dangerous.

"The power that this gives people over the individual corrupts them," he said.

The three-hour film took just six weeks to film, often with Von Trier filming it himself.

It is the first of a trilogy of films about the States, and Von Trier said in an interview with Screen International: "I don't see the American society as being very caring to the people who don't have much.

"This is something I believe I ought to criticise, even though I haven't been there."

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