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
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
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
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
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
~~ Jules Brenner