One of the most important and influential film movements of the last two decades is Dogme 95.

Its creators were two Danish directors, Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg, who had become unhappy with the state of contemporary cinema.

They believed that too many films had become overproduced, lacking in the artistry which they felt was essential to the craft of filmmaking.

Von Trier and Vinterberg decided that they would make a stand by creating a new movement that would strip back film-making to its essentials.

Their aim was to create a body of work that would create a more genuine relationship between artists and audiences; one where technology would play second fiddle to story.

Dogme is one of the more well-known film movements in recent times, due to its often controversial underpinnings.

WHAT IS Dogme 95

What Is the Dogme 95 Film Movement?

Dogme 95 was an artistic movement in which a group of filmmakers, led by Danish director Lars von Trier, made a series of ten rules in order to purify filmmaking.

The rules were designed to remove the artifice from filmmaking. The rules were conceived by von Trier and his fellow Dane Thomas Vinterberg.

Although Dogme 95 is no longer active as a movement, many of its principles continue to influence contemporary filmmaking around the world.

For instance, critics have noticed similarities between Dogme principles and those of Neorealism and Direct Cinema, movements which have influenced filmmakers like Steve James (Hoop Dreams) and Abbas Kiarostami (Taste of Cherry).


What Is The Dogme 95 Film Movement?

The Dogme 95 movement was founded in 1995 by the Danish directors Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg.

Its goal is to purify filmmaking by adhering to a set of rules, including:

  • A set duration of 100 minutes (including credits).
  • A script must not be written in advance.
  • The film must be shot on location using hand-held cameras.
  • No props or sets should be used.
  • The sound must be natural and recorded on location.
  • All sounds must be real – no additional sound effects.
  • Editing is only allowed to cut between different takes.
  • There can be no artificial lighting (if it’s not possible to shoot in daylight, then a movie shouldn’t be made at that time).
  • The director cannot appear in front of the camera.
  • Actors should not be credited.

The idea behind Dogme 95 is that if filmmakers adhere to the rules, their films will have more artistic value.

There are some notable films that followed strict guidelines, such as The Celebration and Mifune.

However, both directors made some exceptions for their individual films, which led to discussions about whether the project had lost its way.

Dogme 95 sought to break rules by imposing strict rules on its members, who were required to follow certain guidelines when making their films.

The rules placed emphasis on realism, with filmmakers being forbidden from using props or special effects which weren’t already available in the real world.

Likewise, they had to make extensive use of natural lighting, while all dialogue had to be delivered in an impromptu fashion.

This latter rule was perhaps the most challenging for filmmakers, as it prohibited them from writing any lines down beforehand.


Film Movements In Cinema: Dogme 95

The New Danish Cinema, also known as the Dogme 95 movement, was a short-lived film movement that began in 1995. 

It was an attempt by Lars von Trier and other Danish filmmakers to revamp the stagnant state of the film industry and to reform the style of filmmaking.

The manifesto was released at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival. The movement was founded on tenets of realism, and many of its productions were shot on video.

Some have argued that these restrictions are similar to those named by François Truffaut in his 1954 essay “Une certaine tendance du cinéma français” (“A Certain Tendency of the French Cinema”), which took aim at what he perceived as the overly stylized filmmaking of directors such as Jean Renoir and Jean Cocteau. 

As Lars von Trier created many of the rules, he is considered one of the main heroes in this movement along with Thomas Vinterberg in 1995, who has also directed some films following these rules.

Dogma 95 – What Are The Rules

Dogma 95 is a documentary film by Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg, released in 1995. It is a critique of the Danish film industry in general, and the Dogma 95 movement in particular.

Suzanne Bjerrehuus, who was involved with the production of the film, has said that it was created because von Trier had grown tired of explaining Dogma to journalists. Dogma 95 was an attempt to define a new filmmaking movement.

The original rules were devised by von Trier and Vinterberg during planning discussions for their joint film The Kingdom (1994) which was shot within the rules but not released until 1998. Some of the rules they used in this film are:

  • 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.)
  • Camera movements and camera positions must not be chosen for their cinematographic qualities, but for the sake of realism; so if a crane or a tracking shot is used, it must be necessary for the story.


History Of The Dogme 95 Film Movement

The Dogme 95 Manifesto outlined a filmmaking movement that would place emphasis on “truthfulness” and stripped-down filmmaking techniques.

This movement is also called Dogme, which is a Danish for ‘rules’ or ‘dogma’. Towards the end of the 1980s, most filmmakers had moved away from the French New Wave’s focus on realism and social commentary.

Instead, they began to focus on more abstract and symbolic works. These filmmakers believed that the audience could recognize symbols just as they could recognize images of real life.

Lars Von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg were two such filmmakers who believed that filmmakers should focus less on realism and more on telling stories with honesty and realism. They were also beginning to feel that their films were not as powerful because of the abstract nature of their earlier films.

Von Trier had always been an outspoken voice about his distaste for Hollywood films and the American film industry. He was not happy with how many Hollywood films were being released, nor was he happy with how little money these films made at the box office.

He felt that American filmmakers were no longer focusing on telling good stories.

Essential Filmmakers Of The Dogme 95 Film Movement

Dogme 95 made waves in the world of indie film when it emerged in the 1990s. The rules were simple: no handheld cameras, no lights, and no props or sets.

Tiny, low-budget productions thrived under these strict guidelines, resulting in a group of movies that were raw, emotional, and to the point. Along with the “Dogme 95 Manifesto,” the originators also created a “Vow of Chastity,” which required filmmakers to follow all of the rules or else be excommunicated from the group.

The manifesto contains 10 rules for filmmaking, but there are a few that stand out above the others which have been outlined above.

Essential Films Of The Dogme 95 Film Movement

The Celebration (1998) is often cited as one of the best films that Lars Von Trier has ever done – and I can see why. 

It’s about a family who has gathered for the birthday celebration of their patriarch, Christian, who has been in hospital for some time with dementia.

As the family sits down for dinner, they soon realize that something strange is going on. 

The Celebration is a darkly humorous satire on family life but all shot in an almost documentary style which makes it all feel very real.

Unfortunately, not everyone at Cannes saw the funny side when they booed Von Trier off the stage after which the director announced that he wanted his next film to be made outside of the studio system.

Importance Of The Dogme 95 Film Movement

Dogme 95 was an attempt to take back power for the director as an artist and away from the film industry. They also wished to stop being blamed for everything that goes wrong during production.

The Vow of Chastity and Dogme can be seen as a set of kind of ‘moral’ guidelines for film.

It also includes more pragmatic guidelines such as working with a minimal budget and shooting time. 

The filmmakers were trying to find a way to make movies that were more honest and real. They wanted to create films that were less dramatic and more realistic.

The End Of The Dogme 95 Film Movement

The manifesto became popular in the late 1990s, which resulted in a large number of films that followed the manifesto’s conventions. Towards the end of the century, Dogme 95 began to lose popularity and its principles were abandoned by many filmmakers.

Fortunately, there are still many great movies out there that follow the guidelines. Festen (1998) is one of my favorite films of the genre. It follows a family reunion at a remote island cottage after one of their relatives dies.

The film is written and directed by Lars von Trier, who also co-stars in the film with his sister, actress Justine von Trier. The film was released in Denmark on October 25th, 1998 and it was well-received both critically and commercially.

Festen won six Bodil Awards, including “Best Film”. It won four awards at the 1999 Robert Festival in Denmark for Best Actor (Ulrich Thomsen), Best Actress (Sidse Babett Knudsen), Best Supporting Actor (Kim Bod).

Dogme 95 Film Movement – Wrapping Up

The Dogme 95 film movement was started in 1995 by Danish directors Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg along with a few other filmmakers. 

The goal of the movement is to bring back some of the purity that they felt was missing from mainstream movies.

The rules are:

  • 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 filmed).
  • 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: shooting must be done on daylight film stock through standard lenses.
  • The film must not contain superficial action.
  • Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden.