Dancer In The Dark

2000, Movie, R, 140 mins


The moment Bjork opens her little mouth to belt out her first big number, it's clear she and director Lars von Trier have managed to defibrillate the moribund movie musical; bursting into song again seems like a viable means of expression. That's the film's greatest achievement, aside from Bjork's astonishing performance; otherwise, it's a reworking of von Trier's BREAKING THE WAVES, complete with the guilt-ridden, child-like heroine doomed to suffer an unreasonably harsh fate. With her thick glasses, stringy hair and face that's all dimples when she smiles, Selma Jezkova (Bjork) is a Czech immigrant with a passion for musicals. A single mother, Selma and her son Gene (Vladica Kostic) rent a dreary trailer in rainy Washington state from the town cop (David Morse). Selma toils daily at a metal plant, but when the going gets tough, Selma's mind goes to Hollywood; she daydreams herself into elaborately staged musical numbers. Unbeknownst to everyone around her, including coworker and best friend Kathy (Catherine Deneuve), Selma is going blind. She suffers from a degenerative eye condition that only an expensive operation can cure and though Selma's been squirreling away her hard-earned cash, she's not thinking of herself. Gene has inherited the disease, and she's determined that he should have the operation. But when catastrophe strikes, Selma must face an even greater sacrifice, undergoing the kind of martyrdom only found in hagiographies and Hollywood melodramas. This may be a musical, but don't expect a good time; it's a grim tragedy that's deliberately drab and exceedingly painful to watch. But if Von Trier's preoccupation with guilt and expiation through tremendous suffering didn't trouble you in BREAKING THE WAVES, it probably won't here either. The film was awarded the Palm d'Or at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival, where Bjork (who also wrote all the music) captured the Best Actress award. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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Dancer In The Dark
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