Power, command and violence in von Trier’s Manderlay. A political and philosophical analysis of pseudo-democracies.


  • Sara Marino King's College London




von Trier, Manderlay, violence, power, democracy, citizenship


Alabama, 1933. A caravan of limousines carrying gangsters arrives in Manderlay, a small village where slavery still exists as an institution. Mam (Lauren Bacall) rules the plantation assisted by her foreman Wilhelm (Danny Glover), a slave who believes his people are not ready for the responsibilities of freedom. Driving up to the gates of the plantation, Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) declares that the slaves must be informed how to enjoy freedom and thus becoming good citizens. Drawing on a textual and visual analysis of Manderlay, the article explores how democracy arises from the exercise of violence and power, as well as the inability of Western societies to deal with the dogma of difference.  

Author Biography

Sara Marino, King's College London

Dr Sara Marino is a Teaching Fellow in Digital Culture at the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London.  She holds a PhD in Communication Science from the University of Urbino (Italy), where she worked on digital media and diaspora.

She previously worked as a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Westminster, and as Associate Lecturer at Central Saint Martins – University of the Arts.

Her main research focuses on the social understanding and analysis of digital diasporas from a political economy perspective that seeks to explore how the socio-economic European scenario has affected intra-European migration. More recently, she became interested in the study of borders and transit zones, especially in relation to the refugee crisis and to the idea of Fortress Europe.  She also writes about issues of power and violence in cinema and reality television. 


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How to Cite

Marino, S. (2016). Power, command and violence in von Trier’s Manderlay. A political and philosophical analysis of pseudo-democracies. CINEJ Cinema Journal, 5(2), 4–27. https://doi.org/10.5195/cinej.2016.132