Dogma Filmmakers Confess They Broke Their Own Rules

From Associated Press

It doesn’t sound like a big deal: a towel hung over a window to adjust the lighting during the shooting of a film.

But for a follower of the “Dogma Vow of Chastity,” it’s a mortal sin.

Now the founders of the strict rules for filmmaking that were introduced in 1995 admit they broke their own credo when they made the first of the movies that created a new genre.

In a documentary film previewed Thursday, the four Danes admitted they broke the rules designed to strip away the superficiality of modern filmmaking by forbidding props, artificial lighting and directing.


“We must conclude that the genuine Dogma film has not been made,” said director Lars von Trier, who won the Palme d’Or at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival for “Dancer in the Dark,” which did not follow the concept.

Von Trier drew worldwide attention in 1995 when he launched the Dogma 95 concept--a set of minimalist rules aimed at bringing back focus on story and plot in filmmaking. The rules forbid sound editing and any equipment beyond hand-held cameras.

Von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg, Soeren Kragh-Jacobsen and Kristian Levring made the first four Dogma films, followed by several other moviemakers worldwide.

The documentary, titled “The Purified,” contained behind-the-scenes footage from the four films as well as interviews with the filmmakers, who discussed the successes and failures of the Dogma concept.

“It was liberating for the imagination; it was innovative,” Vinterberg said. But he admitted he had been forced to adjust the lighting in one scene of “The Celebration” by hanging a towel over a window.

The other three also said they had been forced to or had unconsciously broken some of the rules, according to the documentary. Kragh-Jacobsen said he directed an actress before a scene in “Mifune.” Von Trier brought in a cable for lighting in a scene in “The Idiots,” while a hairdresser cut the hair of an actor between two scenes in Levring’s “The King Is Alive.”


None of the filmmakers has attempted a Dogma movie since, but all four agreed that they would like to try again--this time without exceptions.