It is excellent, first of all, in its showing how evil can spread, like a plague, in a community of otherwise passably decent people. In this respect, it is similar to "The Hunt" (Thomas Vinterberg, 2013), another brilliant film that depicts how evil can arise in a close-knit community of kind, caring people. (But while "The Hunt" is, I think, a realistic study of evil, "Dogville" doesn't aim to be completely realistic. It exaggerates and also satirises.)
The film is also excellent in its portrayal of how people hide, suppress, and release their jealousy, sexual desires, ill will, and their moral fetish for punishment of others. The film portrays the forms of these actions accurately and insightfully, I think, even though it exaggerates the magnitude of the desires to unrealistic levels.
The film seems satirical in some places, but serious in other places. With fierce pointedness (helped by the poetic narration), it satirises how people put up an appearance of decency as a facade for hypocrisy and cruelty. Meanwhile, some parts of the film are, I think, intended as serious messages about human nature.
Where it is intended to be serious, the film propagates very conservative messages indeed. It gives justification for draconian laws, tit-for-tat violence, corporal punishment, and strict moral education. Given that the film paints an unrealistically dark picture of human nature, the moral conclusions it draws from that picture should not be taken seriously.
Viewed this on 27/1/16
Simply a MASTERPIECE. Lars Von Trier sees darkness in everything in this world and his film is haunting, unnerving piece of experiment cinema that is merciless. Perhaps my favourite Trier film and Roger Ebert, fuck you and people like you who hate this one. It twists you, often breaks you with the cruelty of the world and the vulnerability of innocence, boy what an ending, simply loved it. It was an ending I wanted to see while watching some of the most horrendous scenes of the film and one that I never expected to happen.