Dogma – A Cinematic Movement

dogme95.jpgIn March 1995 two Danish film directors announced a change in the way they produced films. In short, it was a critical response to all the new mainstream Hollywood film making that had found it’s way into the hearts of film directors all over the world. This change was a way of simplifying the production and focussing more on telling the story that was supposed to be told.

Dogma was the name of the movement based on a manifest and a set of rules called the Vows of Chastity. These two were written by director Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg, but also co-signed by two other Danish directors.

The manifest described why there was a need of a change in the way films were produced, and the Vows of Chastity, were created to make sure all directors who were doing Dogma films, were subject to the same limitations. Also the rules were supposed to prevent Hollywood elements such as perfect cinematography, 100% continuity and special effects from affecting the story being told in the Dogma films.

The Vows of Chastity

  • Shooting must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in (if a particular prop is necessary for the story, a location must be chosen where this prop is to be found).
  • The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa. (Music must not be used unless it occurs where the scene is being shot.)
  • The camera must be hand-held. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted.
  • The film must be in color. Special lighting is not acceptable. (If there is too little light for exposure the scene must be cut or a single lamp be attached to the camera).
  • Optical work and filters are forbidden.
  • Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden. (That is to say that the film takes place here and now).
  • Genre movies are not acceptable.
  • The film format must be Academy 35 mm.

In 1998 the first Dogma film The Celebration came out, written and directed by Thomas Vinterberg. It was a visual proof of a film created with very few resources but it became one of the most mentioned films in the history of Danish Cinema.

In 2002, 31 Dogma films were produced – a handful of them written and directed by foreign film makers. Dogma had impacted on the rest of the world.

By 2005, the movement was over and the four Danish directors who had created the foundation of Dogma turned to different styles and ways of producing. Though, some rules of Dogma are still followed in different contexts, for example in documentary and alternative films.


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