A woman on the run from the mob is reluctantly accepted in a small Colorado town. In exchange, she agrees to work for them. As a search visits town, she finds out that their support has a price. Yet her dangerous secret is never far away...
Grace: There's a family with kids. Do the kids and make the mother watch. Tell her you'll stop if she can hold back her tears. I *owe* her that.
The Big Man: Rapists and murders may be the victims according to you, but I, I call them dogs. And if they're lapping up their own vomit, the only way to stop them is with a lash. Grace: But dogs only obey their own nature, so why shouldn't we forgive them? The Big Man: Dogs can be taught many useful things, but not if we forgive them every time they obey their own nature.
Grace: I think the world would be better without Dogville.
Narrator: How could she ever hate them for what was at bottom merely their weakness? She would probably have done things like those to be fallen her if she had lived in one of these houses. To measure them by her own yardstick as her father put it. Would she not, in all honesty, have done the same as Chuck and Vera and Ben and Mrs Henson and Tom and all these people in their houses? Grace paused. - - - And all of a sudden she knew the answer to her question all too well. If she had acted like them she could not have defended a single one of her actions and could not have condemned them harshly enough. It was as if her sorrow and pain finally assumed their rightful place. No. What they had done was not good enough. And if one had the power to put it to right it was one's duty to do so - for the sake of other towns, for the sake of humanity. And not least for the sake of the human being that was grace herself.
Grace: But I've got nothing to offer them in return. Tom: Oh, I think you have plenty to offer Dogville.
Vera: I believe smashing them is less a crime than making them. I am going to break two of your figurines first, and if you can demonstrate your knowledge of the Doctrine of Stoicism by holding back your tears, I'll stop.
[first lines] Narrator: This is the sad tale of the township of Dogville. Dogville was in the Rocky Mountains in the US of A, up here where the road came to its definitive end, near the entrance to the old abandoned silver mine. The residents of Dogville were good honest folks, and they liked their township. And while a sentimental soul from the East Coast had once dubbed their main street Elm Street, though no elm had ever cast its shadow in Dogville, they saw no reason to change anything. Most of the buildings were pretty wretched, more like shacks, frankly. The house in which Tom lived was the best, though, and in good times, might almost have passed for presentable. That afternoon, the radio was playing softly, for in his dotage, Thomas Edison senior had developed a weakness for music of the lighter kind.
Grace: Some things you have to do yourself.
[last lines] Narrator: Whether Grace left Dogville, or on the contrary Dogville had left her - and the world in general - is a question of a more artful nature that few would benefit from by asking, and even fewer by providing an answer. And nor indeed will it be answered here.
Tom: Two people only hurt each other if they doubt the love they have for one another.
Narrator: It was as if the light, previously so merciful and faint, finally refused to cover up for the town any longer. Suddenly you could no longer imagine a berry that would appear one day on a Gusberry bush, but only see the thorn that was there right now. The light now penetrated every unevenness and floor in the buildings and... in the people.
Grace: Goodbye, Tom.
[after Chuck sees Grace teaching his kids] Chuck: How is it going otherwise with the fooling act? Grace: I wasn't trying to fool anyone. Chuck: I mean Dogville. Has it got you fooled yet? Grace: I thought you were implying that I was trying to exploit the town. Chuck: Wishful thinking. This town is rotten from the inside out and I wouldn't miss it if it fell into the gorge tomorrow. I see no charm here. But you seem to. Admit it, you've fallen for Dogville. The trees, the mountains, the simple folk. And if all that ain't got you fooled yet, I bet the cinnamon has. That damned cinnamon in those gooseberry pies. Dogville has everything that you ever dreamed of in the big city. Grace: You're worse than Tom. How do you know what I dreamed of? You're from the city yourself, aren't you? Chuck: That was a long time ago. I'm not that stupid anymore. I've found out that people are the same all over. Greedy as animals. In a small town they're just a bit less successful. Feed 'em enough, they'll eat till their bellies burst. Grace: That's why you want to get rid of me... Because you can't stand that I remind you of what it was you came here to find.
[first title cards] Title Card: The film "DOGVILLE" as told in nine chapters and a prologue Title Card: PROLOGUE (which introduces us to the town and its residents)
Chuck: God only knows what that woman is capable of. Grace: You know she's not capable of anything.
[the town sits at dinner on the Fourth of July] Ma Ginger: A police car has just been seen in town and it has just made the turn up Canyon Road! So they'll be here any minute. Martha: Should I ring the bell? Tom: No, Martha. Grace probably heard.
Narrator: And then it was as if Dogville just waited. Even the wind dropped, leaving the town in an unfamiliar calm. As if somebody had put a large cheese dish cover over it, and created the kind of quietness that descends while you're awaiting visitors.
[Vera starts to tear up] Vera: Please don't say such nice things about the kids. I cry too easily. Both in sorrow and in joy.
Grace: All I see is a beautiful little town in the midst of magnificent mountains. A place where people have hopes and dreams even under the hardest conditions.
Narrator: [as McKay explores even further with his hand] It was not Grace's pride that kept her going during the days when fall came and the trees were losing their leaves, but more of a trance like state that descends on animals whose lives are threatened - a state in which the body reacts mechanically in a low tough gear, without too much painful reflection. Like a patient passively letting his disease hold sway.
Grace: I think we've talked long enough about the things we remember seeing.
Grace: What? What is it? Tom: A man can't really be blamed for being scared, now can he? Grace: No. Tom: No. I was scared, Grace. I used you and I am sorry. I'm stupid, I am, maybe even arrogant sometimes. Grace: You are, Tom. Tom: Although using people is not very charming, I think you have to agree that this - specific illustration has surpassed all expectations. It says so much about being human! It's been painful, but I think you'll also have to agree it's been edifying, wouldn't you say? Grace: Not now, Tom. Not now. [Grace walks away and reenters The Big Man's car] Grace: If there is any town this world would be better without this is it.
[Tom offers a piece of bread to Grace] Tom: You want to eat? You must be hungry. Grace: I can't. I don't deserve that bread. I stole that bone. I've never stolen anything before. So now, now I have to punish myself. I was raised to be arrogant. So, I... I had to teach myself these things. Tom: Well, it may be for your education. Grace, in this town... In these times... It's very impolite not to eat what's set before you.
Narrator: [as Grace attempts to make her case] If forgiveness was close at hand in the mission house, they were all hiding it well. It hadn't been easy for Tom to get them there. Appealing to consciences stowed farther and farther away by their owners every day, as if they were as fragile as Henson's glasses after polishing, proved quite a task. But if one was going, the others might as well come along too, so nobody could talk behind anybody's back.