This article argues that Dogville, a film by the polemical Danish director Lars von Trier (2003), has a great deal to say on the themes of freedom and of the ambiguity of oppression. This discussion of the film’s philosophical grounding brings several defining ideas of existentialist thought into play, particularly as they are fleshed out in Simone de Beauvoir’s treatment of oppression and its counterpart, freedom. Reading Dogville through Beauvoir’s eyes, it appears that oppression, being ambiguous, cannot be defeated by means that are not themselves oppressive. In denying the freedom of the other, the oppressor renders his or her own freedom illusory and therefore unworthy of respect. It is only through the punishment of oppression, paradoxically, that free agency is restored to the oppressor; only through the abolition of oppression are both victim and oppressor set free.
Dogville; Or, on Ambiguity and Oppression: A Beauvoirian Reading
sara cohen shabot is a lecturer in women’s and gender studies at the University of Haifa. She specializes in phenomenology, feminist philosophy, and philosophies of the body. Her present research and recent publications address phenomenological perspectives (mainly Beauvoirian) on the maternal embodied subject.
Sara Cohen Shabot; Dogville; Or, on Ambiguity and Oppression: A Beauvoirian Reading. differences 1 November 2015; 26 (3): 142–164. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-3340408
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