Manderlay (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner25/10/2005

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 139 mins

Manderlay isn’t as powerful or as intense as Dogville, but it is still an intriguing and entertaining film, thanks to Bryce Dallas Howard’s performance and John Hurt’s hugely enjoyable narration.

The Background
Lars Von Trier’s Dogville was the highlight of the 2003 London Film Festival and easily the best film of 2004. Manderlay is the second installment in Von Trier’s planned USA trilogy. It follows on immediately from where Dogville left off and utilises the same stripped down single soundstage to stand in for location.

The Story
The film is set in 1930s America. Bryce Dallas Howard (Ron Howard’s daughter) replaces Nicole Kidman as Grace, the daughter of gangster boss Willem Dafoe (replacing James Caan). The film opens with Grace and her father fleeing Dogville, eventually arriving at a troubled plantation called Manderlay, where the abolition of slavery 70 years earlier has been ignored.

Grace is outraged by what she sees and decides to liberate Manderlay. However, her well-intentioned attempts don’t quite work out the way she planned.

The Good
Bryce Dallas Howard fulfils the promise she showed in The Village and proves a worthy replacement for Nicole Kidman, delivering an assured, confident performance that comfortably carries the film. She is ably supported by John Hurt’s delightful storybook narration, which brings both humour and clarity to the film.

There is also strong support from Isaach de Bankole as the charismatic slave Timothy, ex-EastEnder Mona Hammond as Wilma and Danny Glover as Wilhelm, while Willem Dafoe, Lauren Bacall and Zeljko Ivanek all shine in cameo roles.

The Bad
The main problem with Manderlay is that it lacks the powerful scenes that distinguished Dogville and as a result, it often feels like a watered down version of the previous film. Similarly, the handling of the race issue is simplistic and you feel Von Trier could have done more with the emotive subject matter.

The Conclusion
There is a lot to enjoy in Manderlay and it remains an extremely watchable, thought-provoking and entertaining film, thanks to Howard’s performance and Hurt’s narration. Recommended.

Film Trailer

Manderlay (15)
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Content updated: 24/10/2017 10:34

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