In March 1995, Danish director Lars von Trier--world famous after the success of Breaking The Waves
--took part in a discussion on the centenary of cinema. He used the occasion to introduce the public to Dogme95, a manifesto for a new wave of film making. The leaflets which von Trier threw to the audience outlined the 10-point Vow of Chastity which the four-strong Dogme Brotherhood were required to sign. Influenced by the French New Wave, Dogme promised "a rescue action" for cinema, dispensing with studio lighting, insisting on hand-held cameras, and removing directors' names from the credits.
But was it all an elaborate joke, or a clever marketing ploy? After all, this was not von Trier's first published manifesto, and he later admitted that writing the 10 rules "took half an hour and was a great laugh". However, from the moment the first two Dogme films--von Trier's The Idiots and Thomas Vinterberg's Festen--were screened to great acclaim at Cannes, critics were forced to pay attention. Since then, the Dogme rules have not only been invoked by other Danish directors, but by film-makers around the world, most notably American director Harmony Korine in Julien Donkey Boy.
In The Name of this Book, Richard Kelly reports on the making of a television documentary on the Dogme95 phenomenon. He interviews all the key figures of the movement, including directors, producers and actors. The result is impressive--a book which refutes the charge that Dogme is simply a prank aimed at increasing box-office revenue. While von Trier certainly has a penchant for irony, his insistence that "it's not interesting if you don't take it seriously" seems genuine. The Brothers are not suggesting that all films should follow the Dogme rules--they merely wished to try making one or more films each under the restrictions. Many of the interviewees see Dogme in a political light, as a reaction against the dominance of Hollywood and its slick visual style; all of them agree with the producer of Festen and Mifune that "the idea is simply to gain creativity through self-imposition". Offering a glimpse of this creative ferment, Kelly's book is both informative and amusing, weighing up the success of Dogme95 and considering its potential as an international avant garde. --John Oates
Extremely illuminating... Often hilarious... If you want to know more about Dogme then this is the best place yet. -- Total Film
Serious students of cinema will enjoy Richard Kelly's investigation... It is a lot more fun than Festen.' -- Mark Sanderson, Evening Standard, 'Film Books of the Year'