ManderlayJune 3, 2005
A story of slavery, set in the 1930s American South.
Release Year: 2005
Rating: 7.4/10 (11,466 voted)
Critic's Score: 46/100
Lars von Trier
Stars: Bryce Dallas Howard, Isaach De Bankolé, Danny Glover
After gangster Mulligan's cars colony, fleeing northern justice, finds a hiding place in Alabama, spoiled, naive daughter Grace refuses to travel on after seeing the Manderlay cotton plantation being run under slavery rules, called Mam's law, inclusive flogging. She keeps half of dad's goons as guard to force the dying matriarch-owner's heirs, which she shamelessly dispossesses and reduces to 'staff', to taste destitution under absurd, gun-imposed contracts. The 'slaves' are made free partners, supposed to vote for progress after lessons from Grace. But almost all her democracy-pupils prove fickle, dumb and selfish, except old Willem. Her and their ignorance in Southern planting and crafty Dixie ways means more problems are created then solved. By the time dad returns to pick her up or abandon her for good, she's the one who has learned and changed the most.
Bryce Dallas Howard
Grace Margaret Mulligan
Isaach De Bankolé
(as Dona Croll)
Liberation. Whether They Want It Or Not.
Release Date: 3 June 2005
Filming Locations: Denmark
Box Office Details
Opening Weekend: €11,766
(4 September 2005)
(21 April 2006)
Did You Know?
The second film in Lars von Trier's third trilogy series entitled "USA – Land of Opportunities". The two other parts are
Dogville and Wasington (2009).
It was in the year of 1933, when Grace and her father were heading southward with their army of gangsters.
Art and social conscience at a high point of philosophical enquiry
Manderlay 9/10 Introducing this 'Part 2' of the von Trier American
Trilogy, actor Danny Glover said, ¨The process of storytelling is an
enormous responsibility and opportunity.¨ It is one that director Lars
von Trier takes very seriously, constantly seeming to question his role
and duty as an artist and whether the duty is to the audience or to
Both with his Dogme movement films and now with later works such as
Dancer in the Dark, Dogville and Manderlay, his answer seems to be
firmly towards art as a worthy end in itself or at least as a serious
medium by which to raise (though not answer) questions of social
conscience. He makes little or no concessions towards audiences who are
not interested in what he has to say.
Manderlay a story about emancipation from slavery (and on a deeper
level, of the more topical problems of introducing democracy),
continues the Dogville tradition of using Brechtian acting and a
semi-bare stage. The immediate dissociation this brings from any
semblance of everyday reality, focuses our attention on the issues, in
a similar way that Greek tragedy or grand opera is able to do by
insisting that ordinary details are secondary or even irrelevant to the
Grace (played by Bryce Dallas Howard, who takes over seamlessly from
Dogville's Nicole Kidman) travels across America with her father and
comes across an isolated town where slavery has not been abolished.
With a pure heart, god intentions, and the power of her father's lawyer
and henchmen behind her, Grace makes well-meaning but unfortunate,
ill-informed attempts to put things right. She never stops to question
the fact that she knows best, or whether her high moral values are
appropriate or whether they will win the day. Not unexpectedly, there
is much trouble in store for her.
Manderlay's high points are that it is deeply philosophical but at the
same time highly coherent and accessible. It asks important and
necessary questions about the nature of freedom and democracy. Such
questions, and the discussion which this film makes possible, are
urgently needed in the light of such unsolved dilemmas as Iraq, the
philosophical basis for the removal of Saddam Hussein, the introduction
of western-style democracy to countries like Iraq (or even
Afghanistan). The broader practical problems (also tackled by
Manderlay) of how to restore power to those who have been
disenfranchised, whether by slavery, colonialism, dictatorships or
market forces, is one that applies to many countries, irrespective of
the morality involved.
The weakness of Manderlay is that the USA (and its internal and foreign
policy) is an ideal example for any artist tackling such issues as
it's visibility provides a common focus throughout the world. Sensitive
American citizens (and politicians) however will mistakenly see the
film as simply anti-American (which is not too difficult) and avoid it.
This means the people in power who most need to see it (as they need
such fora to find answers) will probably avoid it.
But von Trier has discharged his duty as one of the most intelligent
artists of our time. He has discarded sensational entertainment, using
art as a tool to help us think outside the square and his thinking is
both profoundly stimulating and fully accessible to those with the
patience and inclination. Does art need to tantalize our senses? If so
we would miss out on some of the finest literature, the greatest plays,
anything that did not provide immediate sensory satisfaction. Works
such as Manderlay help to firmly position cinema as one of the great
intellectual arenas of art one that has the power to inform, enrich