October 04, 2005

Dear Wendy

Reviewed by Martin Tsai at the 24th Vancouver International Film Festival

Although only serving as a screenwriter this time, Lars von Trier still leaves his personal stamp on Thomas Vinterberg’s Dear Wendy. Just as Dancer in the Dark and his current “America the Beautiful” trilogy have scrutinized American attitudes toward immigration, the death penalty, Christianity, revenge, racism, et al., Dear Wendy targets the reverence Americans have for the Second Amendment. The story concerns a group of small-town misfits and self-proclaimed pacifists – led by Jamie Bell’s character Dick – who find some antique guns which suddenly empower them with confidence and self-righteousness. Their enchantment becomes such an obsession, that the kids ritualistically name their guns and perform wedding ceremonies for the firearms and their respective owners. The title, of course, stems from a love letter from Dick to his revolver.

Despite the fact that von Trier has never set foot in the States, he is once again spot-on with his assessment of both the country’s attraction to guns and the violence and tragedy that ensue from that romance. While this allegory is certainly more cogent and chilling than the heavy-handed Bowling for Columbine and the indifferent Elephant, it unfortunately pales in comparison to the thematically similar A History of Violence. Vinterberg lacks David Cronenberg’s iconic stereotyping and dark humour, and von Trier’s typical sarcasm seems to have gone right over his Dogme co-conspirator’s head.

© Copyright 2005 Martin Tsai. All rights reserved.