Friday Favorites: Favorite Location – Dogma

Welcome to “Friday Favorites” which highlight some of my favorite movie-related things.  It could be a favorite character or casting choice, a favorite song or score, a favorite scene, line of dialogue, shot or simply a moment.  Anything is possible (costumes, sets, etc) and I’d love to hear your suggestions.  Note: Just because something appears here does not make it my absolute #1 favorite thing in that category, but it is simply “one of my favorites”.

Dogma is an interesting movie.  In fact, it’s a movie that feels like several different movies that don’t belong together wrapped into one.  One part tells the story of two familiar stoners who get caught up with the forces of heaven and hell, and is filled with sex and poop jokes of the lowest common denominator.  Another part is the ensemble comedy about a band of holy misfits trying to prevent the end of the world.  And the third part, the part that keeps me coming back to the film after 14 years, is an interesting drama about faith in the modern world, featuring two angels who were kicked out of heaven for showing mercy towards humanity, and their quest to get back to the place they belong without regard for the consequences.

My favorite scene in the film comes as these angels, Bartleby and Loki (Ben Affleck and Matt Damon), have encountered a setback.  They’ve been challenged by a heavenly host of misfits, including the 13th Apostle, the voice of God, the last descendent of Jesus’s family and the two stoners.  Take a look below and then read on for my thoughts (and turn your sound up to get the full effect):

I love this scene for a host of reasons.  It’s superbly acted, proving to the doubters the talent of both Affleck and Damon.  It’s written and directed in a way you wouldn’t think possible from Kevin Smith, the guy who previously in the film gave us a walking shit-monster.  But what I really love about it is the location.

It’s such a simple thing, setting this scene in a small parking garage.  It seems like the perfect sort of place that Bartleby and Loki would hide after their first defeat, to regroup and rethink their plans.  But it’s also the perfect setting to emphasize what they’re going through.  The complete isolation makes a striking image to go along with Bartleby’s description of being separated from God’s presence.  The dismal atmosphere illustrates just how far they’ve fallen in their time.

It’s also a great location from a filmmaking point of view, making the scene much richer.  When combined with the simplistic lighting and the handheld camera work in the scene, it adds a sense of veracity to the film, grounding it and giving it a feeling of immediacy.  I absolutely love the way their lines echo as they talk, particularly when Bartleby says, “My eyes are open,” “Wake up!” or “It’s not right!  It’s not fair!”

Everything that Bartleby and Loki do from here on in the movie is much more serious and real than anything had been up to this point, and that weight owes everything to this scene.  The performances and the filmmaking would have made the scene great regardless, but I feel like the choice of location puts it over the top.

What do you think?  Do you have a favorite filming location in a movie?  Can you think of a scene that was ruined because of a bad location choice?  Let me know in the comments!

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