"Manderlay" is the sequal to "Dogville", which ended with Grace (Nicole Kidman) getting a brutal revenge on her captors and fleeing Dogville. "Manderlay" begins with Grace (now Bryce-Dallas Howard) arriving at the Manderlay plantation, where slavery still exists, 70 years after it had been legally abolished in Alabama. The mistress of the house (Mam, played by Lauren Bacall, who played Ma Ginger in "Dogville") dies as the movie begins and Grace frees the slaves. Manderlay remains, like its namesake Manderley (in "Rebecca"), haunted by the presence of its former matriarch and her shadow never truely leaves the house.
"Manderlay" expores the issue of freeing a captive-bred bird - it's not designed to live in the outside world - and how this issue applies to the freed slaves. Dallas Howard gives an excellent performance and you soon stop wondering how Kidman would have played each scene. Other excellent performances come from Ruben Brinkman and Danny Glover.
The staging of "Manderlay" is the same as that of "Dogville" - a sound-stage with a very minimalist set and painted lettering to designate what things are and painted lines to indicate walls. It works exceptionally well and the very clever use of lighting and wind-machines brings more life to the movie than you would get in a theatre using a similar staging of the story. The lack of set gives the actors a real challenge and their performance shines through.
Not a light film for Sunday-afternoon viewing - "Manderlay" is dark and bitter and leaves a lasting impression.