Over the last month or so we’ve been sharing projects by photographers who have used the medium to explore the crevices and vistas of their home or neighborhood. Today we thought we’d expand that conversation from photography to film. How do you make a film when you can’t go anywhere and you can’t assemble a film crew?
In 1995, Danish directors Lars von Trier (Melancholia) and Thomas Vinterberg (The Hunt) created the “Dogme 95 Manifesto” and the “Vows of Chasity” in response to ballooning Hollywood budgets, special effects technology, and coinciding with the availability of cut-price digital filmmaking tools. They were rules intended to push filmmakers to create films based on traditional values of story, acting, and theme without the use of elaborate effects or technology. The ideas resonated with indie filmmakers around the world and led a movement of back-to-basics guerrilla-style filmmaking.
What can we learn from their rules 25 years later in the time of COVID-19, when everyone has filmmaking tools in their pockets but nowhere to be, when there are stories to tell and histories to record, but limited ways to do it? Do we need a “Covid 19 Manifesto?”
THE VOW OF CHASTITY
I swear to submit to the following set of rules drawn up and confirmed by DOGMA 95:
-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.
-The film must not contain superficial action. (Murders, weapons, etc. must not occur.)
-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 35mm.
-The director must not be credited.
Furthermore I swear as a director to refrain from personal taste! I am no longer an artist. I swear to refrain from creating a “work”, as I regard the instant as more important than the whole. My supreme goal is to force the truth out of my characters and settings. I swear to do so by all the means available and at the cost of any good taste and any aesthetic considerations.
Thus I make my VOW OF CHASTITY.
Copenhagen, Monday 13 March 1995
Lars von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg