Despite its debt to Brectian theatre, this would make an extremely good play:; . .unfortunately it falls short of the mark as a film . . . . .. There's no doubting the sincerity and artistry of Lars Von Trier's parody of Christian redemption, and there's no doubting the acting talent of the principals Kidman and Bettany and the eminently `listenable` narrative by John Hurt but with its 3 hour length, this is tough going for the cinema audience. Cinematic innovation is not enough to carry the day . .. . That said, there's much to admire in a project which eschews cinematic entertainment in favour of an intelligent ` morality` tale which is not afraid to infuse its religious themes with challenging ironies and post-modernist question marks. It certainly has impact .. and it made me think .. .. but , I don't think I could sit through it again. .
Time Out saysAmbitious, intriguing but fatally self-important account of how an archetypal small town in the Rockies, proud of its ethics, turns against a woman (Kidman) apparently on the run from a gangster, notwithstanding the efforts of a free thinking liberal (Bettany). As a study in the social, psychological and philosophical dimensions of hypocrisy and intolerance, it pounds home its somewhat obvious points. As an exercise in Brechtian distanciation - there's a narration, with echoes of Thornton Wilder, beautifully intoned by John Hurt, and it's all shot in a studio empty of everything except a few basic props - it's gimmicky and never brought to a fruitful conclusion. And as drama it's repetitive and overlong. That said, the performances are strong, and the final scene, with its Capone the Father and Christ the Daughter associations equating the Land of Freedom with Sodom and Gomorrah, has an infectiously wicked glee that almost redeems the preceding portentousness.