Irish Film Institute -Dancer in the Dark

Dancer in the Dark

Director: Lars Von Trier

Denmark-Sweden-Germany-France-Iceland-Norway-U.K.| 2000. Filmed in English. Colour. Anamorphic. 140 minutes.

Von Trier continued his assault on modern cinema with, of all things, a musical set in America but filmed mostly in Sweden. He’s said to be a fan of Hollywood musicals and to have been inspired by West Side Story (1961) and The Sound of Music (1965) in particular. Needless to say, Dancer in the Dark looks and sounds nothing like these films. It follows on from Breaking the Waves as part of the so-called ‘Golden Hearted Trilogy’ which explores female goodness and suffering.
The story is as simple and emotionally loaded as the most hackneyed Victorian melodrama. Selma (the Icelandic pop star Bjork Gudmundsdottir), a Czech who has emigrated to America, has a small son, works in a tool factory, and is saving money for an operation that will save her boy’s failing sight. As Peter Matthews observed in Sight & Sound, ‘the situation that von Trier serves up here might be embarrassingly florid, but the coupling of his manipulative skills and Bjork’s showy intensity results in a movie with the force of an emotional bulldozer. In her pop-star incarnation, Bjork plays the ethereal sprite whose plaintive voice can break your heart, and it’s a down-market version of this persona she embodies here. Dreaming of Hollywood musicals as she works at the tool factory, Selma cuts a poignant figure with her glaring spectacles and frumpy cardigans.

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