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Dancer in the Dark (2000)

Cast: Björk, Catherine Deneuve, David Morse, more...
Director: Lars von Trier
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: New Line Home Video
Genre: Drama, Foreign, Scandinavia, Musicals
Running Time: 141 min.
Languages: English
Subtitles: English
    see additional details...

Reportedly the third in acclaimed director Lars von Trier's "Golden Hearts" trilogy (preceded by Breaking the Waves and The Idiots), this film is a hip reworking of the classic Hollywood Musical, starring international pop diva Bjork. Set somewhere in rural Washington state, Czech immigrant Selma (Bjork) works in a pressing plant, struggling to make ends meet for herself and her 10-year-old son, Gene (Vladica Kostic). Her best friend is coworker and fellow European Kathy (Catherine Deneuve). While outside work, she is maintaining a cautious friendship with local yokel Jeff (Peter Stormare). She also landed a starring role as Maria in an amateur production of The Sound of Music. Selma's life would be one of relative contentment if it were not for the ugly secret she harbors -- she is on the verge of blindness due to a genetic disorder, and her young son will suffer the same fate without an operation. Selma has quietly been stashing away money for the surgery and has already amassed $2,000. When her savings, squirreled away in a can in the kitchen, suddenly disappear, she confronts her cash-strapped landlord Bill (David Morse). Of course, like all musicals, the plot periodically takes a backseat to the seven production numbers, including a show-stopping sequence in Selma's factory. Shot entirely on digital video, the film reportedly used up to 100 cameras for each musical number. Dancer in the Dark received top prizes at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival including Best Actress for Bjork and the coveted Palme d'Or for Best Picture. ~ Jonathan Crow, All Movie Guide

You might also enjoy:
Breaking the Waves
Lars Von Trier puts another actress through the emotional ringer

Bjork - MTV: Unplugged & Live
See the talented Bjork more in her comfort zone

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
Deneuve, 1960's version, stars in this unforgettable French musical

GreenCine Member Reviews

Never got to the dance sequences by 37793779 December 23, 2008 - 12:40 PM PST
2 out of 3 members found this review helpful
Mumbled and whispered dialogue. Jerky hand held camera. Poorly framed scenes and intentional bad editing I suppose to give it a hand crafted look. I'm not sure what the blind dancer was saying but I'm sure it would have affected me. We turned it off after 1/2 hour.

Cheesy Melodrama only invokes a touch of sympathy by NMalik August 28, 2004 - 6:54 AM PDT
1 out of 8 members found this review helpful
The problem with this film was the over indulgence of melodrama. The film was awfully hard to watch and a bit of a disappointment because of the terrible lines and over-acting. Bjork is definitely a goddess of another galaxy but watching her was as annoying as trying to understand her songs. The ending was the most significant part of the film, when the blind immigrant finally gets hanged, but getting there was too much of a pain between the random dance numbers and Bjork's over acting. I felt the story and message of this film was very important but, unfortunately the message will not be conveyed because the events in that occur in this film, especially during the courtroom scene was out of the realms of logic and sense.

Brutal and Brilliant by sfspaz January 20, 2004 - 1:01 PM PST
10 out of 10 members found this review helpful
Director Lars von Trier has never shied away from the confrontational story, from the spellbinding The Idiots to the harrowing Breaking the Waves, it is obvious that von Trier enjoys pushing the emotional buttons of the viewer.

The extent to which the viewer can accept von Trier's emotional manipulation will determine to a great extent one's opinion of this film. Artifice, both in plot and execution, is rife throughout the film, but it is not to be faulted for this. The deep melodrama of the story (a single blind mother falsely accused of murder), while caricaturistic, is crucial to legitimize in the viewer's mind the exploration of a doomed woman's flight of fancy into the world of Buzby Berkeley-style musical numbers. Critics might be wise to recall co-star Catherine Deneuve's film past in the near-surreal Umbrellas of Cherbourg, a film which featured no dialogue at all that was not part of a musical number.

It is this sort of technicolor world that Selma escapes to, and the vividness of her fantasy world is matched only by the darkness and pain of her real existence. This sort of emotional brutality is certainly not for everyone, and even die-hard fans of von Trier will find the film's downward spiral incredibly hard to take.

The much-discussed camera work can be seen as a passing novelty (dozens of handheld digital cameras captured all the action) - while the effect is often disorienting, it does serve to illicit the sense of being drawn into a secret world that only those closest to Selma are privy to.

Special mention must be made of Bjork, whose on-screen performance was almost eclipsed by the sensational anguish she apparently underwent inhabiting this role during filming. Her performance here is palpable - both visceral and excrutiating, and is frankly so successful as to be hard to watch (she received the Best Actress award from the Palm D'Or).

A work of art, to be sure... but a harrowing experience and not one you'll be able to view repeatedly.

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GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.30)
528 Votes
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Cannes Film Festival & More - 2000
Official Selection, Certain Regards... and more. Here is a bit more information on the films screened at the Cannes. I have attempted to list all the films that were considered for an award as well as any special screenings.
Singing in the Face of Adversity
dark musicals - song & dance numbers amidst plots involving conflict, persecution, personal sacrifice, loss, etc - list is open to suggestions!

see all lists

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