5. The Baader Meinhof Complex
From producer and writer Bernd Eichinger, whose work on Downfall was a chilling example of humanization, comes an exploration of radical politics gone wrong.
The film captures the dehumanization of ideology but does so by presenting the terrorist organization as not so much likeable as relatable. We see the very human and theatrical quality inscribed in the preposterous posturing so associated today with online terrorist videos. From the transformation of rightful anger to crazed hyperbole, Ulrike Meinhoff’s radicalization bears witness to the fact that injustice can very easily spread.
Another brilliant film about terrorism is John Malkovich’s The Dancer Upstairs which is equally chilling, though less insightful into the human, all too human process of dehumanization.
4. Broken Mirrors
A brilliant feminist film, Marleen Gorris’ Broken Mirrors concerns two coterminous narratives that eventually come to a brief juncture. One narrative concerns sex workers at a brothel and the way they relate to their clients and vice versa.
The other concerns a serial killer in a corporate job who murders women to gain power over them. He even photographs them, illustrating a focus on the male gaze and male erotic pleasure as essentially a sadistic endeavor. Yet the images of defiant women challenge and break the lens by which women are reduced to male fetishes.
3. The Lobster
Has dating become too dehumanizing where humans are reduced to asinine similarities and anyone without a partner shunned to a sort of wilderness? In a strange, decidedly absurdist and offbeat manner these issues are explored in The Lobster. The cacotopian world of The Lobster explores characters with a monotonous voice who, if single must attend a retreat where they find partners who are pared based on insignificant commonalities.
But in a way, the movie is itself a manifestation of inhumanity. The first scene involves the actual murder of an animal. Given the presumed animal cruelty that takes place—we witness a donkey be shot—perhaps the movie ought to be boycotted.
2. Come and See
Come and See shows the worst consequences of dehumanization as we witness the horrors of war and the Nazi cruelties inflicted on Belarusians. It is a hellish, apocalyptic film. Yet the last scene of the film depicts a boy who has witnessed horrors beyond Dante’s imagining retain his humanity.
Probably Lars von Trier’s greatest film, Dogville explores various forms of dehumanization. We see gendered violence—rape and incredible acts of base cruelty. We see psychological torture. We also witness how exploitative human beings can be of weakness and even kindness. But also we witness the cruelties of the capitalist system as the film is set during the Great Depression.
When the protagonist, Grace is abused by the economically poor town of Dogville, how far is the audience drawn toward her act of revenge? Lars von Trier has stated that he was curious as to what might justify seemingly indiscriminate slaughter. Von Trier has stated that his early films concern the dangers of humanism, framing the humanist as someone who naively thinks the best of people and then turns on them as they do not live-up to expectation.
Although one may see Grace as naïve, her suffering is far beyond that associated with the humanists of The Element of Crime and Europa. Rather, her actions are, in some terrible way, seemingly justified. But at the same time, her violence in a sense reflects the town’s violence and the violence done to the town by the economic system of capitalism. A profound exploration of deeply troubling questions, Dogville is Lars von Trier at his most substantial.
Author Bio: Aleks Wansbrough has a PhD in visual arts and has written for academic publications as well as mainstream ones on film and philosophy. He hopes someday to make a feature film himself.