Lars von Trier likes to tweak his audience. His films appear to have a "message" or a "lesson", but it is often unclear what that lesson is. Even more subversive, the lesson, as revealed superficially, often gets turned on its head and ends up being its polar opposite when analyzed more deeply.
Early on in the movie Dogville, the character Young Tom tells us that he has been working on a system of philosophy and ethics, and that he has been using the pulpit of the town church to try to explain this philosophy to the townspeople of Dogville. However, he states that he has not been able to get his message across, and that what he needs is a good illustration. Near the end of the movie, after the dramatic apocalyptic end of the town, Young Tom states, ďnow I have my illustrationĒ. It seems pretty clear that the lesson illustrated was not the one Young Tom had in mind at the beginning of the movie!
No doubt, this movie can be interpreted on many different levels, but the movie is rife with religious symbolism and an interpretation that seems meaningful to me is as a retelling of the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorra. The stranger, Grace, arrives as a stranger in the town. Instead of being accepted and treated hospitably, Grace is brutalized and sexually abused. Justice is served when the town is destroyed.
I rather like von Trierís rendering of a moral lesson that has an initial (superficial) interpretation, followed, after more careful study, by a (deeper) opposite interpretation. Many who read the biblical passage (Genesis 19) superficially think the lesson of Sodom and Gomorra is that Godís law states that homosexual behavior deserves to be punished, totally ignoring a deeper (perhaps antithetical) meaning of the story as revealed in both the Old (Ezekeiel 16:49-50) and New Testaments (Matthew 10:14-15).
What does all of this have to do with the images shown in the closing credits? I donít have a clue. I chalk it up to von Trierís sometimes-childish tendency to play games with the audience even when the games detract from the film he has made. If others have a more satisfying explanation, I would welcome hearing it.
I gave this movie a rating of 3 stars.