– “Thus I make my VOW OF CHASTITY” –
Dogme 95 (sometimes known as Dogma or Dogma 95) was an avant-garde movement in film production started by Danish-born directors Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg in 1995. Frustrated by the aesthetic decadence, and the associated falsity of mainstream cinematic trends, Trier and Vinterberg, after a night of drinking, began to come up with a set of rules that would give power back to the artist, as opposed to the studio. Allegedly, within 45 minutes, Trier and Vinterberg had written and co-signed the “Dogme 95 Manifesto”, as well as the “Vow of Chastity”, and thus had created the Dogme 95 Collective – otherwise known as the Dogme Brethren.
The set of rules created by Trier and Vinterberg were designed to reinvigorate filmmaking by basing productions on long-established classical principles of storytelling, performance and theme. In an effort to move away from studio reliance, special effects, superficial action, and the use of high-budget camera technologies were prohibited. Trier and Vinterberg were later joined by fellow Danish directors Søren Kragh-Jacobsen and Kristian Levring, creating Dogme #3 (Mifune’s Last Song, 1999) and Dogme #4 (The King is Alive, 2000) respectively – Festen, also known as The Celebration (Vinterberg, 1998) and Idioterne, also known as The Idiots (Trier, 1998) being the first films to receive official Dogme 95 accreditation.
The Dogme 95 Manifesto reads as follows:
DOGME 95 is a collection of film directors founded in Copenhagen in spring 1995.
DOGME 95 has the expressed goal of countering “certain tendencies” in the cinema today.
DOGME 95 is a rescue action!
In 1960 enough was enough! The movie was dead and called for resurrection. The goal was correct but the means were not! The new wave proved to be a ripple that washed ashore and turned to muck.
Slogans of individualism and freedom created works for a while, but no changes. The wave was up for grabs, like the directors themselves. The wave was never stronger than the men behind it. The anti-bourgeois cinema itself became bourgeois, because the foundations upon which its theories were based was the bourgeois perception of art. The auteur concept was bourgeois romanticism from the very start and thereby… false!
To DOGME 95 cinema is not individual!
Today a technological storm is raging, the result of which will be the ultimate democratization of the cinema. For the first time, anyone can make movies. But the more accessible the medium becomes, the more important the avant-garde. It is no accident that the phrase “avant-garde” has military connotations. Discipline is the answer… we must put our films into uniform, because the individual film will be decadent by definition!
DOGME 95 counters the individual film by the principle of presenting an indisputable set of rules known as THE VOW OF CHASTITY.
In 1960 enough was enough! The movie had been cosmeticized to death, they said; yet since then the use of cosmetics has exploded.
The “supreme” task of the decadent film-makers is to fool the audience. Is that what we are so proud of? Is that what the “100 years” have brought us? Illusions via which emotions can be communicated?… By the individual artist’s free choice of trickery?
Predictability (dramaturgy) has become the golden calf around which we dance. Having the characters’ inner lives justify the plot is too complicated, and not “high art”. As never before, the superficial action and the superficial movie are receiving all the praise.
The result is barren. An illusion of pathos and an illusion of love.
To DOGME 95 the movie is not illusion!
Today a technological storm is raging of which the result is the elevation of cosmetics to God. By using new technology anyone at any time can wash the last grains of truth away in the deadly embrace of sensation. The illusions are everything the movie can hide behind.
DOGME 95 counters the film of illusion by the presentation of an indisputable set of rules know as THE VOW OF CHASTITY.
The Vow of Chastity, which all filmmakers must adhere to in order to be Dogme 95 accredited, follows thus:
I swear to submit to the following set of rules drawn up and confirmed by DOGME 95:
- Shooting 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 where the scene is being shot.)
- The camera must be hand-held. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted.
- The film must be in color. 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 film format must be Academy 35 mm.
- The director must not be credited.
Furthermore I swear as a director to refrain from personal taste! I am no longer an artist. I swear to refrain from creating a “work”, as I regard the instant as more important than the whole. My supreme goal is to force the truth out of my characters and settings. I swear to do so by all the means available and at the cost of any good taste and any aesthetic considerations.
Thus I make my VOW OF CHASTITY.
Copenhagen, Monday 13 March 1995
On behalf of DOGME 95
Lars von Trier Thomas Vinterberg
The Dogme 95 Collective officially announced Dogme 95’s “end” in 2005, stating that the manifesto had become a genre formula, and thus Dogme 95 itself had paradoxically become a genre in its own right. However, prospective filmmakers may still, if they wish, self-certify their films on the Dogme 95 website (http://www.dogme95.dk/).
The movement as a whole worked to legitimise low-budget independent filmmaking. With the emergence of video capabilities in DSLR cameras, such as the Canon EOS 550D in early 2000, and perhaps more importantly, the Canon EOS 5D Mk. II in 2008, many low-budget independent filmmakers now either intentionally or unintentionally adhere to most, if not all of the rules stipulated in the Vow of Chastity (Vinterberg admits to covering a window in Dogme #1 Festen), and subsequently, many shorts/full feature films could in theory be awarded with Dogme status – though technological advancements result in a loss of much of Dogme 95’s aesthetic qualities; eg. higher resolution, as well as lower contrast, saturation, and grain frequency.
Although the Dogme 95’s influence was largely afforded by the technology available at the time, it’s worth noting in part that the movement’s pursuit of independence really only affected the general aesthetic of the films released; the self-imposed rules did little to affect script, narrative, or performance. Similar rules could be applied, and retrospectively adhered to by the likes of Italian Neorealist, French New Wave, or even Cinema Novo filmmakers – ie. “High Art” movements seeking social realism often display similar aesthetic qualities due to their iconoclast derivations; art from the mainstream.
Dogme 95 set out to restore artistry and authenticity to mainstream filmmaking production through experimentation. In doing so, Dogme went on to visibly influence both Mumblecore and The New Puritans through its cinematic minimalism and purity. In a sense, it is the “rawness” with which handheld DIY digital filmmaking imposes upon the viewer that The “Indie Film” Movement adopted so readily. Despite Dogme 95’s overtly political origins, the movement’s foremost and, most importantly, original effect on indie filmmaking was in showing the enhanced naturalism and immediacy that “amateur” techniques bestow upon productions. Though Dogme 95 may no longer be active in any official capacity, its attributable effect on current cinematic trends is certainly visible.
Full chronology of Dogme 95 certified films:
Festen (Thomas Vinterberg)
Idioterne (Lars von Trier)
Mifunes Sidste Sang (Søren Kragh-Jacobsen)
The King Is Alive (Kristian Levring)
Lovers (Rue Jean-Jacques Moulineaux)
Julien Donkey-Boy (Harmony Korine)
Interview (Daniel H. Byun)
Fuckland (Jose Luis Marques)
Babylon (Vladan Zdravkovic)
Chetzemoka’s Curse (Rick Schmidt et al.)
Diapason (Antonio Dominici)
Italiensk For Begyndere (Lone Scherfig)
Amerikana (James Merendino)
Joy Ride (Martin Rengel)
Camera (Rich Martini)
Bad Actors (Shaun Monson)
Reunion (Leif Tilden)
Et Rigtigt Menneske (Åke Sandgren)
Når Nettene Blir Lange (Mona J. Hoel)
Strass (Vincent Lannoo)
En Kærlighedshistorie (Ole Christian Madsen)
Era Outra Vez (Juan Pinzás)
Resin (Vladmir Gyorski)
Security, Colorado (Andrew Gillis)
Converging With Angels (Michael Sorenson)
The Sparkle Room (Alex McAulay)
Come Now (N/A)
Elsker Dig For Evigt (Susanne Bier)
The Bread Basket (Matthew Biancniello)
Dias De Boda (Juan Pinzás)
El Desenlace (Juan Pinzás)
Se Til Venstre, Der Er En Svensker (Natasha Arthy)
Residencia (Artemio Espinosa Mc.)
Forbrydelser (Annette K. Olesen)
Cosi X Caso (Cristiano Ceriello)