Lars Von Trier, 2005, Denmark/USA (139 mins)
Bryce Dallas Howard, Danny Glover, Isaach de Bankole
Following her harrowing experiences at Dogville, idealistic gangster’s daughter Grace (Howard) arrives at Manderlay, where slavery continues 70 years after its supposed abolition. The second part of Von Trier’s Brechtian ‘American Trilogy’ is a complex, often uncomfortable parable about the brutal realities of racial and cultural oppression, the snares of moral obligation, and the unexpected challenges of freedom, democracy, and self-determination.
Unfortunately, having raised and explored many challenging moral and ethical questions, (applicable not simply to the legacy of American slavery but to that of colonialism and empire building throughout the world), Von Trier can’t quite resist giving the Yanks one final kick. So he ends by repeating the irritating and crass trick he pulled in Dogville; abandoning any pretence of wider allegorical application by having David Bowie’s ‘Young Americans’ play over an end credits montage of specifically American racial oppression. For this he loses a point. Steve Balshaw