Arrogance. Throughout “Dogville", I noticed this to be one of the major ideas expressed throughout the film. This town is isolated from anything else happening outside of their minuscule community. They are blind to what is morally right and wrong, which is why they treat the outsider Grace so inhumanely. The set design in “Dogville” is one of the many ways that Lars Von Trier portrays this arrogance.
The very first shot of the movie shows the entire town from bird’s eye view, revealing chalk lines drawn out like a map to represent where houses and roads would be. This gives the audience a very God-like and objective point of view, easily accessing everything and anything that happens in the town. This choice of set design makes the audience hyper-aware to the entire town. One example of this payoff would be the moment Grace is being raped for the first time, and the camera then moves far back to reveal the rest of the town going along with their business. Although the audience can see everything in that moment, what makes it so uncomfortable is the oblivious townspeople.
The borders of the set are completely blank white or black nothingness, depending on whether it’s day or night. This aspect made it very clear that the town only sees what is in their own little world and nothing else. They are all trapped in their own blindness, unaware of anything but their own personal needs. I thought that one of the most powerful moments of the film was when the blind man finally opened the curtains, and for the only time in the film, real sky was shown. The set design gave us no access to the world that we are used to at all, which is what made that payoff so effective.