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Dear Wendy exposes the US’s gun culture

The new film Dear Wendy explores the rotten heart of the US, writes Stephen Philip

Issue No. 1962

The Dandies and their guns in Dear Wendy

The Dandies and their guns in Dear Wendy

Dear Wendy is a highly original, witty and dark satire on US political hypocrisy and gun culture. It brings together the formidable talents of director Thomas Vinterberg (Festen) and writer/director Lars Von Trier (Dogville).

An 18 year old loner Dick, who is played brilliantly by Jamie Bell, lives in an impoverished mining village in the US.

He buys a pearl handled toy pistol as a birthday present but he soon discovers it’s a real gun firing real bullets.

To Dick, the gun has a life of its own, so he calls it Wendy. But he’s an avowed pacifist and has no intention of using it for sinister ends.

He begins to recruit fellow misfits into his secret society called the Dandies. They dress in highly theatrical garb. Each member has their own gun. It’s granted a name and invested with its own personality by its owner.

On the fringes of the town among derelict buildings they set about steeping themselves in the science of ballistics and the physical effects of bullets. Their favourite innocent pleasure is shooting practice.

Dick delights in the fact that he can shoot accurately at a target when blindfolded. The Dandies rule is, “Never draw your weapons.”

But this rule is to be severely tested. The Dandies call shooting their gun “loving”. They may feel impelled to “love” soon.

Despite evidence to the contrary, the Dandies view their small world, a village square, as a fearsome place where citizens can’t walk freely.

Then one day, Dick’s gang shepherds his elderly, feeble black foster mother across the square to have a cup of coffee with her friend. As a result, his much vaunted pacifism may have to undergo a rethink.

The realism of the film is slightly unhinged. It has a slow start but the pace soon picks up, accompanied by a brilliant soundtrack from The Zombies. It’s a thought provoking and acerbic parable that taunts and exposes the defenders of gun culture in the US.

It works on many levels and also skewers the hypocrisy of humanitarian intervention.

As Vinterberg notes, “pacifists with weapons is what most of the Western world consider themselves”.

They never plan to use them but use them they will.

As trigger-happy coppers stalk our streets, can there be a more timely drama in these dangerous and difficult times?

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Sat 6 Aug 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1962
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