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"Dancer in the Dark"

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Lars von Trier's Dancer in the Dark stars the Icelandic singer and composer Björk as Selma, a Czech immigrant and single mother living in a trailer in a working-class town in Washington State in 1963. Going blind, Selma stashes her meager paycheck from a local factory job in order to pay for an operation that will spare her son a similar fate. Her passion is musicals, and periodically she fantasizes her own life as a big production number. The results of these imaginings, with music and singing by Björk, rank with At Long Last Love and Everyone Says I Love You as examples of the worst musical scenes ever. Von Trier placed some 100 stationary video cameras around the set -- that's 100 too many. It's not just that the numbers are berserkly bad; they also don't seem to have any emotional connection to this bedraggled, Dickensian waif. Von Trier puts Selma through so many motions of sorrow and cruelty that the film turns into a masochist's orgy. Björk won the Best Actress prize at Cannes for her performance, but I found her elfin intensity more creepy than moving. Von Trier piles on the extreme close-ups of her tremulous pathos, just in case we missed the intensity.


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