Years active: 1995–2005
Country: international, started in Denmark
Major figures: Lars von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg, Kristian Levring, Søren Kragh-Jacobsen, Jean-Marc Barr
Influences: Realism, French New Wave
Influenced: Mumblecore, New Puritans
Dogme 95 is an avant-garde filmmaking movement started in 1995 by the Danish directors Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg with the signing of the Dogme 95 Manifesto and the “Vow of Chastity”. They were later joined by fellow Danish directors Kristian Levring and Søren Kragh-Jacobsen, to form a group sometimes known as the Dogme 95 Collective or the Dogme Brethren. Dogme is the Danish word for dogma.
The genre gained international appeal partly because of its accessibility. It sparked off an interest in unknown filmmakers by suggesting that one can make a recognised film without being dependent on commissions or huge Hollywood budgets, depending on European government subsidies and television stations instead. The movement has been criticised for being a disguised attempt to gain media attention. Dogme was initiated to cause a stir and to make filmmakers and audiences re-think the art, effect and essence of filmmaking.
The manifesto and its companion vows were drafted by friends and initial co-signators Von Trier and Vinterberg. Vinterberg holds that it took them 45 minutes to finish.  The manifesto initially mimics the wording of François Truffaut’s 1954 essay Une certaine tendance du cinéma français in Cahiers du cinéma.
The Dogme movement was announced on March 22, 1995 at Le cinéma vers son deuxième siècle conference in Paris, where the cinema world gathered to celebrate the first century of motion pictures and contemplate the uncertain future of commercial cinema. Lars von Trier was called upon to speak about the future of film but instead showered a bemused audience with red pamphlets announcing the Dogme 95 movement.
In response to criticism, Von Trier and Vinterberg have both stated that they just wanted to establish a new extreme. “In a business of extremely high budgets, we figured we should balance the dynamic as much as possible.”
The first of the Dogme films (Dogme #1) was Vinterberg’s 1998 film Festen (The Celebration), which was critically acclaimed and won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival that year. Lars von Trier’s Dogme film, Idioterne (The Idiots), also premiered at Cannes that year but was less successful. Since the two original films were released, other directors have participated in the creation of Dogme films. French-American actor and director Jean-Marc Barr was the first non-Dane to direct a Dogme film with 1999’s Lovers (Dogme #5), followed by the American Harmony Korine’s movie Julien Donkey-Boy (Dogme #6).
In 2004 the multi-awarded film Het Zuiden (South) directed by Martin Koolhoven thanked Dogme 95 in its credits. The movie (co-produced by Lars von Trier’s Zentropa) was originally planned to be shot as a Dogme 95 movie, but director Koolhoven decided against it.
Goals and rules
The goal of the Dogme collective is to purify filmmaking by refusing expensive and spectacular special effects, postproduction modifications and other gimmicks. The emphasis on purity forces the filmmakers to focus on the actual story and on the actors’ performances. The audience may also be more engaged as they do not have overproduction to alienate them from the narrative, themes, and mood. To this end, Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg produced ten rules to which any Dogme film must conform. These rules, referred to as the “Vow of Chastity,” are as follows: 
- Filming must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in. If a particular prop is necessary for the story, a location must be chosen where this prop is to be found.
- The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa. Music must not be used unless it occurs within the scene being filmed, i.e., diegetic.
- The camera must be a hand-held camera. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted. The film must not take place where the camera is standing; filming must take place where the action takes place.
- The film must be in colour. Special lighting is not acceptable (if there is too little light for exposure the scene must be cut or a single lamp be attached to the camera).
- Optical work and filters are forbidden.
- The film must not contain superficial action (murders, weapons, etc. must not occur.)
- Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden (that is to say that the film takes place here and now).
- Genre movies are not acceptable.
- The final picture must be transferred to the Academy 35mm film, with an aspect ratio of 4:3, that is, not widescreen. Originally, the requirement was that the film had to be filmed on Academy 35mm film, but the rule was relaxed to allow low-budget productions.
- The director must not be credited.
Uses and abuses
The above rules have been both circumvented and broken, from the first Dogme film. For instance, Thomas Vinterberg “confessed” to having covered a window during the shooting of one scene in The Celebration (Festen), which is both bringing a prop onto the set and using special lighting. Lars Von Trier used background music (Le Cygne by Camille Saint-Saëns) in the film The Idiots (Idioterne).
Since 2002 and the 31st film (included) no more verification process through the original board is needed by a filmmaker to have his/her film certified as Dogme 95. The founding brothers have moved towards new experimental projects and showed themselves to be skeptical about the later frequent interpretation of the Manifesto as a brand or a genre. The movement eventually broke up in 2005. Today, filmmakers submit a form online and check a box which states they “truly believe that the film … has obeyed all Dogme95 rules as stated in the VOW OF CHASTITY.”
Remodernist filmmaker Jesse Richards criticizes the movement in his Remodernist Film Manifesto, stating in Point 10, “Remodernist film is not Dogme ’95. We do not have a pretentious checklist that must be followed precisely. This manifesto should be viewed only as a collection of ideas and hints whose author may be mocked and insulted at will.” American film critic Armond White also criticized the movement stating that it is “the manifesto that brought filmmaking closer to amateur porn”, and that it will be rejected by film historians.
Notable Dogme films
Complete list is available from the Dogme95 web site (via Internet Archive).
- Dogme #1: The Celebration
- Dogme #2: The Idiots
- Dogme #3: Mifune’s Last Song
- Dogme #4: The King Is Alive
- Dogme #5: Lovers
- Dogme #6: Julien Donkey-Boy
- Dogme #7: Interview
- Dogme #8: Fuckland
- Dogme #9: Babylon
- Dogme #10: Chetzemoka’s Curse
- Dogme #11: Diapason
- Dogme #12: Italian for Beginners
- Dogme #13: Amerikana
- Dogme #14: Joy Ride
- Dogme #15: Camera
- Dogme #16: Bad Actors
- Dogme #17: Reunion
- Dogme #18: Et Rigtigt Menneske
- Dogme #19: Cabin Fever
- Dogme #20: Strass
- Dogme #21: Kira’s Reason: A Love Story
- Dogme #22: Era Outra Vez
- Dogme #23: Resin
- Dogme #24: Security, Colorado
- Dogme #25: Converging with Angels
- Dogme #26: The Sparkle Room
- Dogme #27: Come Now
- Dogme #28: Elsker Dig For Evigt
- Dogme #29: The Bread Basket
- Dogme #30: Dias de Voda
- Dogme #31: El Desenlace
- Dogme #32: Se til venstre, der er en Svensker
- Dogme #33: Residencia
- Dogme #34: Forbrydelser
- Dogme #35: Così x Caso
- Dogme #36: Amateur Dramatics
- Dogme #37: Gypo
- Dogme #38: Mere Players
- Dogme #39: El Ultimo Lector
- Dogme #40: Lazy Sunday Afternoons
- Dogme #51: A Cool Day in August
- Dogme #65: The Smokestack Wager
- Thomas Vinterberg
- Lars Von Trier
- Søren Kragh-Jacobsen
- Kristian Levring
- Jean-Marc Barr
- Anthony Dod Mantle
- Paprika Steen
- Fran Ilich
- Harmony Korine
- Susanne Bier
- Category:Dogme 95 films
- Realism (arts)
- New Puritans
- New Sincerity
- Remodernist film
Notes and references
- ^ a b Utterson, Andrew. Technology and Culture, the Film Reader. Routledge. ISBN 9780415319850. http://books.google.com/books?id=EsVYBL8ytLMC&pg=PA87&dq=Dogme+95&lr=&as_brr=3&client=firefox-a&sig=ACfU3U3QPeg05053E9LO6MefbvdGpXAFag#PPA88,M1.
- ^ Krause, Stefanie (2007). The Implementing of the ‘Vow of Chastity’ in Jan Dunn’s “Gypo”. Verlag. ISBN 9783638768115. http://books.google.com/books?id=phzgbBQcBmAC&pg=PA5&dq=Vinterberg+45+minutes&lr=&as_brr=3&client=firefox-a&sig=ACfU3U26DR6ODq1OT0iLtLSfcp9DE4gPQw.
- ^ Kristian Levring interview (via Internet Archive)
- ^ Dogme 95 – Dogmefilms (via Internet Archive)
- ^ “Remodernist Film Manifesto”, When The Trees Were Still Real, August 27, 2008 Retrieved September 1, 2008
- ^ White, Armond (2004-03-09). “Digital Video Dogpatch: The king of false movement directs his ice queen”, New York Press. Retrieved on 2009-05-24.
- To the Rescue of Cinema: Dogme 95 at BrokenProjector.com
- GreenCine primer on Dogme95
- The Dogpile95 movement’s website
- Interview with The Dogme Doctor Mogens Rukov
- Official Nimbus Film website
- Lars From 1-10, a ten-minute film in which Lars von Trier reflects on Dogme 95.
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