Putting Lars von Trier’s ‘Dogville’ on the stage

In Lars von Trier’s much-discussed film «Dogville,» the mountainous and isolated village where the leading character seeks refuge is only drawn on the floor with chalk, a set rather reminiscent of a theater stage and not very cinema-like. Yet, now that «Dogville» is being staged in the theater, at the National Theater’s New Stage, the sets follow a different concept. The audience is seated on revolving concentric circular benches and can follow the villagers’ action, since the village is situated around the «main square,» where the audience is seated. When asked whether it was the film’s look or the actual story that compelled director Antonis Kalogridis to suggest producing a theater version of «Dogville» at the National Theater, the director replied that he found Von Trier’s lay-out stimulating in the film. «Yet the actual story, the text, was my motivation. This is a small story, like a parable, which talks about the society we live in and shows us a bit more clearly how it works, through the small community of a village. It is a society which, upon gaining power over someone or something, doesn’t know how to use it and loses the game. «Then there is also the story of a particular individual, Grace (played by Natassa Kalogridi), who has no moderation in either good or evil, which is why she is transformed into both a victim and a persecutor. We also get to see the behavior of young writer Tom (played by Dimitris Tarlow), the educated man in the village who in a way represents society’s ‘intellectuals,’ who participate in public affairs but also detach themselves from them. There is also the man of power, Grace’s father (played by Christos Valavanidis), and his perception of the world. ‘Dogville’ shows us how one thing is seen from different angles. When circumstances allow it, frightening powers come to the surface that no one suspected even existed,» added Kalogridis, when asked whether the play also indicates that the human soul contains the seeds of both good and evil. «That is why it is very difficult for man to strike a balance and mature. Time has to pass and people need to experience certain things for that to happen.» The director described the turning of the film’s off-camera narrator into an actual character as the most drastic intervention, apart from the stage sets. «I see that voice as Grace herself speaking after years have gone by, when she is older. So I started from there and selected Mirka Papaconstantinou for that part, with whom I really wanted to work. I am glad it happened, because she brings out exactly what I want – it’s like she is observing from a distance what took place then. If it did take place, that is, because we are toying a bit between reality and imagination. Grace may be imagining everything, because there is something of a messiah in her, which makes her give wholeheartedly to the world yet remain humble herself, something that her father sees as arrogance. All of that helps us shed some discreet light into other dimensions…» Kalogridis himself conceived the stage set, which was realized with the help of Paris Mexis. The adaptation of the text was by Christian Lolique and the translation by Stratis Paschalis. The costumes are by Lena Katsanidou, the music by Constantinos Beta and the lighting by Katerina Maragoudaki. The remaining parts are played by Olga Tournaki, Thodoros Katsafados, Andreas Natsios, Zozo Zarpa, Makis Revmatas, Georgia Kallergi and Sofia Kakarelidou, among others. National Theater’s New Stage is situated at 22 Aghiou Constantinou, tel 210.522.3242. On stage Tuesdays and Thursdays to Saturdays at 9 p.m., Wednesdays at 6 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m.