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Film Review: Dancer in the Dark

Posted on the 19 September 2013 by Donnambr @_mrs_b
About Dancer in the Dark (2000)Dancer in the DarkSelma (Bjork) is a Czech immigrant who works as a machine operator in an American tool factory. Almost blind herself, she struggles to make enough money to pay for the operation which will save her son’s eyesight, and has nearly collected the complete sum when the money is stolen from her by the cop (David Morse) who lives next door. Discovering this, Selma goes to appeal to the cop’s mercy, but he refuses to listen and pulls a gun on her, an act which will have fatal consequences for the both of them. With songs by Bjork herself and spectacular dance sequences filmed with a mass of digital cameras, Lars von Trier’s film is both an ultra-modern take on the film musical and a tear-jerker in the classic tradition.

Starring: Jean-marc Barr, Bjork, Cara Seymour, Udo Kier, David Morse

Directed by: Lars von Trier

Runtime: 141 minutes

Studio: New Line Home Video

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Review: Dancer in the Dark

Initially signed up to just do the soundtrack to the film, Bjork was convinced to also take on the lead role. Selma (Bjork) is a Czech immigrant who has sought a new life in America in the 1960s. She works as a machinist in a tool factory and has one objective: to raise enough funds for her young son to have an operation. Selma is suffering with a degenerative disease that is causing her to go blind. She knows that later in life her son will suffer the same fate so every penny she makes is to buy the operation that will save his eyes. Living in poverty and never buying her son any gifts, Selma rents a trailer from a police officer, Bill (David Morse), and his wife Linda (Cara Seymour). At the factory she continually fends off the attentions of the lovestruck Jeff (Peter Stormare) and attends both a theater group and heads to the cinema with best friend, Kathy (Catherine Deneuve), where their mutual passion is for musicals.

Selma has slowly raised her money but still cannot afford her son’s operation. Her eyesight is failing, making her a liability at work and relying on Kathy to get her through the shifts. Her passion for theater where she is the star of an upcoming amateur musical also comes under threat with her eyes near useless if she doesn’t wear her glasses. With time ticking away Selma decides that she will have to hand over everything she has to the hospital and hope they will accept it for her son’s operation. Things take a sinister turn though when Bill, having confided in Selma that he is heavily in debt due to his wife’s relentless spending, steals Selma’s money to pay off his own debts. When Selma goes round to confront him the repercussions are life-changing for all the characters involved.

Told mostly as a moving drama, Dancer in the Dark plays on Selma’s love of musicals and how her vision of America has long been shaped by the movies. Throughout the film we are treated to instances where seemingly unimportant and unspectacular scenes ignite Selma’s passion for music and she bursts into song. Of course the men and women around her join in the dancing and even the singing, augmenting the many daydreams that Selma has, her only means of escaping from the harsh reality that is her life. Oscar-nominated Bjork is very good in the lead and is ably supported by Deneuve, Morse and Stormare. The musical elements to the film certainly make this one unusual but it is moving as well with some people maybe needing tissues for the conclusion.

Dancer in the Dark doesn’t have the same impact as von Trier’s Dogville but it is an excellent drama and musical. Selma’s devotion to her son and the many sacrifices she makes will tug at heartstrings, while the musical interludes offer welcome relief from the main narrative. It is holding a mirror to the harsh depiction many immigrants have to face and the conclusion suitably avoids melodrama.

Verdict: 4/5

Film Review: Dancer in the Dark

About the Author:

I was born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England and have always been a bookworm and enjoyed creative writing at school. In 1999 I created the Elencheran Chronicles and have been writing ever since. My first novel, Fezariu's Epiphany, was published in May 2011. When not writing I'm a lover of films, games, books and blogging. I now live in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, with my wife, Donna, and our six cats - Kain, Razz, Buggles, Charlie, Bilbo and Frodo.

David M. Brown – who has written 848 posts on Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dave.


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