Cinema Signal:

Lars von Trier
by Jack Stevenson

. "Dear Wendy"

This stylized fantasy comes from the irrepressibly experimental mind of Danish filmmaker Lars Von Trier, but is closer to "Donnie Darko" and "Chumscrubber" than his own "Dogville," a 3 hour staged fable. What all of these sybolic distortions have in common is their dealing with strange ideas and motivations springing up from a community that considers them alien. It is also an approach that fits the dogme' provenance of the filmmakers.

The scenario begins with a young and pensive loner named Dick (Jamie Bell) hunched over a writing table, immersed in a letter to his beloved Wendy. Near tears, he writes, "I missed having you at my side." This moment is a framework for a story told in flashback, in which we soon learn the identity of his object of endearment.

In the poverty-stricken coal mining town of Estherslope, which has a rectangular business district called the Electric Square, Dick's father has tried unsuccessfully to turn his son into a coal miner. It's not the sort of work that appeals to the sensitive, pacifist loner, however. Instead, he gets a low-paying but attention-getting spot in the general store.

Needing to find a birthday gift despite limited financial circumstances, Dick goes shopping for a toy in the store that Susan (Alison Pill) runs. She removes a gun from the window and places it in Dick's hands. The rest is destiny. At first regarding the small, elegant pistol as a unique toy, he's informed by his friend and ballistics expert Stevie (Mark Webber) that it's actually a 6.65 mm double-action revolver that shoots real bullets. And, when Stevie refers to his own firearm by name, Dick chooses one for his weapon. "Wendy" is born. As for the gift, he finds something else.

Wendy represents much more to him than a mechanical object. It's more a personality changer and a grantor of power. Owning it gives him a confidence that's not lost on others, bringing him a promotion at work. He thinks of himself as a protector of Electric Square. He's shed his fear of being a loser.

Realizing the power he's discovered, he forms a group of town losers into a secret gun club with a specially designed meeeting room and target range down in the abandoned portion of the mine. The clubhouse he calls The Temple and he designs signals and rites and studies of forensic science and bullet trajectories.

In target practice, Dick demonstrates Wendy's independent mind and eye by shooting from the hip with eyes closed and hitting the center of the bullseye. While this assures him of leadership of the clan, all members are joyously developing into expert shots. Susan has the special skill of hitting her bullseyes with two guns at a time by ricochetting bullets like billiard balls.

The credo of the club, as pronounced by its pacifist leader, is to always keep personal handguns out of sight and never drawn outside the club. But the mere companionship with the weapons is enough to redesign each of Dick's fellow losers' psyches and vastly improved self-images. They agree to call themselves the "Dandies."

When Clarabelle, his one-time maid and loving nanny, develops a mentally unbalanced fear of stepping outside her home, Dick, like a scout leader, draws his club members together to strategically assemble as guardians of her safety so that she can deliver a package of coffee to her daughter on the other end of the town rectangle, an undertaking of some danger.

In a police raid of the mine premises, the gang headquarters is found and its contents confiscated, including Wendy. The letter Dick has been writing, we now realize, is a farewell caused by physical separation. In Dick's strange mind, there are some things that Wendy needs to know.

Clarabelles' walk finally starts. Despite the protection of her security detail, which virtually dotes on her to assure her physical safety, fear and sanity get the better of her and the situation, turning the last act into the OK Corral.

Thomas Vinterberg, ("It's All About Love") who directed the Von Trier screenplay, thought of this as a parable about self imagined pacifists who worship weapons. Dick tells us, then, that his admiration of a weapon simply exaggerates the real universe where lunatic losers think gun-love makes them winners and where their ways of acting-out play out on a more damaging scale.

Click for full list of movie reviews

                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  


List of reviews:
Release order
Alphabetical order
To Jbmovies
(sample frames from movies photographed
by Jules Brenner)


Bestselling DVDs Bestselling books

Jamie Bell as central lunatic, Dick
Every secret club needs a ritual

Help us to continue
bringing you these reviews...
visit our sponsors