Wednesday, May 16, 2012

957. Dancer in the Dark (2000)

Running Time: 140 minutes
Directed By: Lars von Trier
Written By: Lars von Trier
Main Cast: Bjork, Catherine Deneuve, David Morse, Peter Stormare, Cara Seymour
Click here to view the trailer


This is the second of three Lars von Trier works that I've watched from THE BOOK. Before even delving into the pages of this book, I considered myself a von Trier fan, mostly because I thought "Dogville" was excellent and because "Antichrist" had certain traces of brilliance. However, "Dancer in the Dark" didn't live up to the hype that I set for it and was ultimately a disappointment.

Selma Jezkova (Bjork) is a single mother, a factory worker and a junkie for classic musicals. She's a bit dimwitted and often nods off at work, allowing her mind to make music out of any sound she hears and often daydreaming that she's in the midst of a musical. Selma lives in a trailer, located on the property of Bill (Morse) and Linda Houston (Seymour). Bill is a cop and often takes care of Selma's son, while Selma works at the factory. One evening Bill decides to tell Selma a secret - he's broke. Even more so, his wife doesn't know that they're broke and Bill is convinced that if she were to find out, she'd surely leave him. Selma sees Bill's secret and raises him one - she's going blind. It's a hereditary condition and soon, her son will also start to go blind. However, there is hope for him, as Selma has scrimped and saved, even neglecting her son on his birthday, to be able to save the money to pay for an operation, so that he'll be able to see. When Bill gets wind of the stash that Selma has saved up ($2,056.10), he plots to steal it...and does, pretending to leave one evening, but staying behind and taking advantage of Selma's blindness, finding out her hiding spot for the funds. When Selma finds out that Bill took the money, she confronts him about it in a very polite manner, simply asking for the cash back. Bill refuses and forces Selma to shoot him, if she wants the money back. She does and a murder trial ensues.


Well, where do I start with this one. First of all, bear with me because I plan to say a lot about this movie, it's just a matter of getting my thoughts into the right order. I watched "Dancer in the Dark" last night, but held off on writing the review so that I could have some time to toss this one back and forth in my head. I'm starting to notice that von Trier, at times, is a very powerful filmmaker and sometimes his films are too much to take in and I find myself not being able to tell if they're brilliant or not so brilliant. I still feel that way about "Antichrist", realizing that there IS some amount of genius in that movie, but also not really being able to make heads or tails of it. It's sort of the same with "Dancer in the Dark", as I'm able to admit that there were flashes of brilliance, but also realizing that it just wasn't really for me, as a whole. In fact, I was fine with "Dancer in the Dark" until about the forty minute mark when the musical portion of the film kicked in. I knew it was coming, but I can tell you now that if they'd omitted the musical numbers, I'd have liked this one a lot more. If you strip away the musical portion of "Dancer in the Dark", you're still left with a really great, interesting and original story about a dimwitted, single mother who is saving up money for her son's eye operation, only to have it stolen by the town cop and then be forced to trial and later, prison. I have a feeling that the critics went all cuckoo over this one, because it took two very different genres (crime drama and musical), mashed them together and created something very unique. Unfortunately, it didn't quite work with me.

The songs were to "Bjorky", for starters. I've NEVER been a fan of Bjork's music and of course, when the musical portions of "Dancer in the Dark" do kick in, they tend to really resemble a Bjork music video, with Bjork's signature moan and her style of song. Now, to all the Bjork fans, don't raise your pitchforks just yet, because I'm willing to admit that she did a fine job as an actress, as I thought she nailed the role of Selma and actually really surprised me at how good she did with it. I've also always considered myself a fan of both David Morse and Peter Stormare, so I have no cast complaints whatsoever.

But let's get back to the character of Selma, because I had a difficult time grasping her character. She was a character that the audience was meant to have much sympathy for, yet I found myself being quite unsympathetic to her and I'm really not sure why. There's really no reason for me not to have sympathy for her character. She's a single, blind mother, who works day and night to save money for her kid, so that he can have an eye operation and probably keep his sight. She's sweet, innocent and is sent to prison for a murder she did commit, but for one that she was tricked into committing, connived by an officer of the law. I guess what really got under my skin is the fact that I didn't cry at the end. I read so many different perspectives last night from different people and so many people claim to have cried at the end and of course they cried, as it's perhaps one of the saddest endings I've ever seen. It's the type of situation where you actually yearn for a happy ending, because this character is so sweet and so innocent, you just want her to be spared. In my case, I wanted von Trier to go all the way and I begged him (as I watched the film) not to cop out on the sad ending and deliver me some tears. Well, he delivered a tearjerking scene, it's just that no tears were jerked from my eyes.

In closing, I think it's going to take another viewing (maybe even two) for me to really warm up to this one. I can, however, definitely see myself warming up to it, I just think it's going to take some reflection. I think if "Dancer in the Dark" hadn't been a musical - had it just been the story of the Selma - I would have loved it. The musical aspect of it all, just totally killed it for me and I wanted to rip my ears off when those scenes were being played out. I also think there needed to be more work on the character of Selma. There was something missing, as I just couldn't get a read on her and just couldn't muster up any sympathy for this poor soul.

RATING: 6.5/10  It's not awful, but "Dancer in the Dark" should have been left out of THE BOOK and "Dogville" should've been let in. I also read a bunch of reports that said that this and "Breaking the Waves" were very similar, so I decided to check that out soon, so expect that review ASAP.


May 16, 2012  5:47pm

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