A woman on the run from the mob is reluctantly accepted in a small Colorado town. In exchange, she agrees to work for them. As a search visits the town, she finds out that their support has a price. Yet her dangerous secret is never far away.
After gangster Mulligan's (Willem Dafoe's) cars colony, fleeing northern justice, finds a hiding place in Alabama, spoiled, naive daughter Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) refuses to travel on after seeing the Manderlay cotton plantation being run under slavery rules, called Mam's (Lauren Bacall's) law, including 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 of her democracy-pupils prove to be fickle, dumb, and selfish, except old Wilhelm (Danny Glover). 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.Written by
In 1933, after leaving Dogville, while traveling with her father (Willem Dafoe) and his gangsters to the south of USA, Grace Margaret Mulligan (Bryce Dallas Howard) sees a slave ready to be punished in a property called Manderlay. The slavery had been abolished seventy years ago, and Grace becomes revolted with the attitude of the owners of Manderlay, keeping slaves in their cotton fields and following predetermined despicable rules called "Mam's Law". Grace decides to stay with some gangsters in Manderlay and give notions of democracy to the slaves and to the white family. When harvest time comes, Grace sees the social and economical reality of Manderlay.
"Manderley" is the second part of Lars von Trier trilogy initiated with the awesome "Dogville" and following the same aesthetic of theatrical scenarios. I was impressed with the magnificent performance of the gorgeous actress Bryce Dallas Howard that I know only from her minor participation in "Book of Love" and her lead role in "The Village". The screenplay of "Manderlay" is great, with the narrative being very well conducted by John Hurt, and in spite of having no action and being developed in a low pace, the plot is interesting until the very last scene. I did not understand the point of Lars von Trier in the end, since Grace defends the democratic principles inclusive with the suffrage, but Wilhelm tells her that "she sent the guns away too soon". Therefore, does Mr. von Trier believe that guns are necessary to establish democracy? Or is he making an analogy to the present situation in Iraq, showing that democracy can not be reached by the use of force? Another point is the social and economical situation of the poor former slaves, free only in laws but without condition to survive seventy years after the abolishment of slavery. The same happened in Brazil and I believe in the countries that used slave labor, therefore the wounds exposed in Manderlay are universal, and not only an American issue. The kind of assistance that Grace gives to the former slaves is full of good intentions and does not resolve their situation, since she has never reached the root of their problem. My vote is nine.
Title (Brazil): "Manderlay"
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