Dogma Rules

The third Dogma film, Mifune. is less provocative and more conventional than its predecessors, but, as director SDREN KRAGII-IACOBSEN explains, the trick is to make a film with many layers. Words: Nigel Floyd

‘When the Danish critics first saw Mifune,’ explains Soren Kragh-Jacobsen with an ironic smile, ‘some of them said, “It doesn’t look like a Dogma 95 film”. But what does a Dogma film look like? Dogma is not a style, Dogma is a set of inspiring rules.’ Compared to The Idiots or Festen, Mifune is indeed a more conventional film, a simple tale about a Copenhagen yuppie reluctantly dragged back into his rural, familial past. Aged 52, with a solid body of work behind him, Kragh-Jacobsen approached his Dogma project with a very different mind-set from Lars Von Trier or Thomas Vinterberg.

‘This was my eighth film,’ says Kragh-Jacobsen, ‘whereas Festen was Thomas’s second. 80, for me, the experiment was in the completely opposite direction. I had just finished making a big international production, The Island On Bird Street, so I was in a completely different mood. I didn’t want to force myself to experiment or to be provocative, as Lars had done with The Idiots, I just wanted to stick to the rules, which I found amusing and liberating. It’s not hard to find a provocative subject, the art is to make a film with many layers. Also, with Festen, Thomas wanted to disconnect the family, whereas with Mifune I wanted to re-connect the family.’

28 TIIELIS‘I’ 23 Sep—7 Oct 1999

'I didn't want to force myself to experiment or to be provocative, I just wanted to stick to the rules, which I found amusing and Iiberating.’

Soren Kragh-Jacobsen

Storyteller: Saren Kragh-Jacobsen directing Mifune

Ironically, Von Trier and Vinterberg established what is now thought of as the Dogma style by breaking rule number nine, which states that all projects must be shot on film. Instead, seduced by the cheapness and flexibility of lightweight, hand-held video cameras, they used a restless camera to follow the actors movements rather than dictating what they should do. Kragh-Jacobsen embraced the hand-held aesthetic, but rejected the restless camera style associated with it: ‘I don’t think the Dogma dynamic is in the restless camerawork - I’d seen that sort of thing in Danish films from the 605. I wanted the filming to be hand-held, but still in control.’

The latest challenge facing Kragh-Jacobsen and his colleagues is an expansion of the Dogma project beyond Denmark’s borders, an inevitable consequence of the first three films’ world-wide box- office success. But what started out as an ascetic set of rules now risks becoming another piece of cynical, commercial ’branding’. There has been talk of tightening the rules, a re-statement of the original purity of purpose, to be enshrined in a revised, even more ascetic set of principles, Dogma 2000. Kragh-Jacobsen, naturally, approves of this: ‘When we formed Dogma 95, there was never any talk about it being commercial. But now it’s a movement, it’s a wave. We have two secretaries just sitting answering questions from people who want to make Dogma films.

‘Very soon we’ll see Harmony Korine’s new film, Julien: Donkey Boy, and Jean-Marc Barr’s Lovers. And if people want to jump on the wave, because they feel that it will help them, commercially, to get a Dogma certificate, then why not? But only if they stick to rules. Because it’s no fun playing a game when you know that somebody has some cards up their sleeve.’

Mifune opens Fri 1 Oct. See review.

Rough cuts

Lights, camera, action . . .

TODS MURRAY WS has once again achieved top ranking for Media and Entertainment Law in Scotland in accordance with league tables published by both The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners. The Glasgow and Edinburgh based firm represents upwards of 300 individuals and companies including Elaine C. Smith, the Edinburgh International Film Festival and The Royal Lyceum Theatre Company, as well as clients throughout Scotland and in London, North America and Europe.

SHARING STORIES '99, the annual international co-production conference will run Fri 12—Sun 14 Nov in Edinburgh. For its eighth edition, the event moves venue to Dynamic Earth and will focus solely on television. Recently appointed director Ros Borland has announced new sessions including The Script Factory reading of a TV drama teleplay, a Scene By Scene interview with Mark Cousins and a leading documentary filmmaker and Cyberpitch. a Banff Television Festival, Canada initiative. Programme details and registration information available on the Sharing Stories website at TWENTY FIRST FILMS, the new funding scheme for low budget filmmaking announced by the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen. has put out a call for applications, the deadline for which is 12 November. The scheme aims to fund non-mainstream features, the models for which include Bills Douglas and Forsyth, Derek Iarman, Hal Hartley and Spike Lee. The films will be budgeted up to £60,000 and can be shot on any medium capable of being blown up to 35mm for a proposed theatrical release. Full guidelines and applications from SAC Help Desk on 0131 240 2443/2444 or Scottish Screen on 0141 302 1700.

PETER MULLAN HAS had to cancel his Cineworks Masterclass, to be held at the Edinburgh Filmhouse on Sat 25 Sep, due to unforeseen circumstances. Instead, there will be a screening of Mullan's short films along with work from the Cineworks, FVAC and GFVW members.

Inspiration: Spike Lee